Sunday, May 3, 2009


Shaky refugee system let in killer

Shaky refugee system let in killer

Paul Morse
The Hamilton Spectator

(May 2, 2009)

As the mystery of how a convicted double killer managed to enter Canada as a refugee deepens, experts say our overburdened refugee system is likely partially to blame.

"At this point, the system is close to collapse," said Sergio Karas, a Toronto immigration lawyer and past chair of the International Bar Association Immigration and Nationality Committee.

The 1990s "was the time of the highest influx of refugees, because we had people coming from China, because of Tiananmen Square, the Balkan crises and war in Latin America in Nicaragua and El Salvador."

It was also the time of the breakup of the Soviet Union, he said.

"The system was overtaxed at the time, and the system continues to be overtaxed."

Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) says it cannot make any information public about the case of Elvir Pobric, 37, a Bosnian landed immigrant arrested this week in Calgary on a Canada-wide immigration warrant.

According to authorities, Pobric shot two foreign-currency dealers to death and robbed them of large sums of money in a small village in northeastern Bosnia on April 4, 1992, just days before the outbreak of ethnic violence between Bosnian Serbs and Muslims.

Pobric was caught and sentenced to 20 years in prison. According to Interpol, Pobric broke out of prison in 1996 and disappeared from view.

Pobric entered Canada as a refugee under his own name sometime between 1996 and 1999, living first in Ottawa and then moving to Hamilton, where he became an aluminum siding contractor. Now married with a young family, the Bosnian immigrant set up a permanent home in Grimbsy.

Two years ago, he began working in Calgary and commuted home to Grimsby every month or so. Hamilton police and the Canada Border Services Agency began to hunt for him when Hamilton police Chief Brian Mullan received two letters from the daughter of one of his victims. She said Pobric was in Hamilton and begged Mullan to return him to prison.

But members of Pobric's family say the contractor had been interned in Serbian "detention camps" and was under the eye of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) until his legal release in November 1996.

Relatives yesterday handed over a document to the Canadian Red Cross in Hamilton with an ICRC stamp on it that lists Pobric's release from prison on Nov. 6, 1996.

Canadian Red Cross officials say they are checking the veracity of Pobric's story with ICRC delegations in Washington and Geneva.

During the Balkan conflict, refugees entered Canada either by arriving in the country and claiming refugee status or through Canada's government sponsored resettlement program, which fast-tracked refugees in war-torn regions and transported them to Canada.

Morteza Jafarpour, executive director of Hamilton's Settlement and Integration Services Organization (SISO), said it was not uncommon for refugees to use fake documents to escape horrific genocide or persecution so they could make a better life in Canada.

"Whether (Pobric) escaped from prison or was released is irrelevant," said immigration expert Karas.

"The only thing that is relevant from an immigration point of view is, first, does he have a criminal history, and, two, how come nobody picked it up?"