Conditions can be difficult for refugees. The pandemic has made things worse, say Canadian sponsors. (iStock)

Sponsors ask Canada to lift refugee travel restrictions

Pandemic restrictions mean that Canada is not likely to meet its target for the number of sponsored refugees it hoped to admit in 2020.  The government had set a target of admitting 20,000 privately sponsored refugees but by the end of August, just over 3,000 had been resettled. Private sponsors do not believe Canada will be able to settle more than 6,000 before the end of the year under current conditions.

On October 30, 2020 the minister of immigration increased the number of privately-sponsored refugees it would like to admit for 2021 to 22,500. But the sponsors say it is not likely to meet that target either unless there is a change. 

There are many groups which privately sponsor refugees to come to Canada. Many are concerned that fewer refugees have been settled during the pandemic. (iStock/December 11, 2015)

Restrictions limit refugees that can be resettled

For now, there are travel restrictions which are only lifted for refugees who have been approved for permanent residence on or before March 18, 2020 and no further visas are being issued. Sabine Lehr, chair of the Council of The Canadian Refugee Sponsorship Agreement Holders Association calls the date arbitrary. The council wants the government to add an exemption to the travel restrictions for all refugees that are and will be approved for permanent residence in Canada, regardless of their approval date. 

Lehr says this change is necessary to manage a growing backlog of applications and to reduce the long processing times. She says it is also necessary to maintain the motivation and engagement of private sponsors and to fulfil Canada’s commitment to resettling refugees.

‘Adverse conditions…very long waits’

“Refugee applicants are facing very adverse conditions and very long waits to come to Canada,” she says.  The pandemic has affected the countries in which they are located and eliminated many of the jobs in the informal economy leaving refugees in even worse circumstances than before. Lehr is calling on the Canadian government to resume issuing permanent resident visas to refugees that have been approved and to lift travel restrictions for them. Sponsors vow to continue to work to welcome them and arrange for their mandatory 14-day quarantines. 

The Canadian Refugee Sponsorship Agreement Holders Association represents 118 organizations in Canada that sponsor refugees under the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program(PSR). The immigration department’s recently-announced three-year plan calls for Canada to resettle each year 12,500 refugees assisted by government only, 22,500 privately sponsored refugees and 1,000  refugees benefitting from a form of blended private and government sponsorship.

Categories: Immigration & Refugees, International, Society
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