This logo suggests that coming home for the winter holiday season is the dream of many Canadians, but not a reality for children of refugees.
Photo Credit: Canadian Council for Refugees

Family reunification process ‘unbearably’ long

The government must act to reduce “horrendously long” wait times for children to be reunited with their refugee parents in Canada, says Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees.

Once a person is accepted as a refugee in Canada they can apply to have family members join them. But the current Citizenship and Immigration Canada processing times are 17 months for dependent children and 34 months for other family members.

Reunification ‘not a priority for the government’

“It seems common sense that children should be with their parents,” says Dench. “Unfortunately, it’s not a priority for the government.” She acknowledges that in some parts of the world there are particular challenges, such as security threats in Nairobi where visa applications are processed for many surrounding African countries.

There have also been staff and budget cuts in the department. “Rather than addressing those challenges, unfortunately, at the moment the government simply allows the timelines to get longer and longer,” says Dench. Instead, she wants the government to set a processing target of six months or less.

ListenChildren should be processed as quickly as workers

“We’re basing that on the fact that the government has recently announced that for some economic immigrants that have a job waiting for them in Canada, they will process their applications in six months or less.

“We’re saying that children who have a parent waiting for them in Canada should be reunited as quickly as workers who have a job waiting for them in Canada,” says Dench. She proposes a new program be created called Express Entry for family reunification, modelled on the Express Entry economic program the government plans to launch in January 2015.

Remove ‘unnecessary barriers,’ ask advocates

Dench notes Canada is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of Children which calls for applications for family reunification to be dealt with in an “expeditious” manner.

“It’s a question of making it a priority and also understanding that children have a right to be with their parents, so not making unnecessary barriers,” says Dench, giving as an example the requirement for some applicants to provide DNA proof of kinship. This can be expensive and cause huge delays.

“Unfortunately the processing times are extremely long, unbearably long for many families.”

Categories: Immigration & Refugees, International, Politics, Society

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