Refugee Law Office Weighs in on the Long Wait Periods and the Need to Reunite Families of Refugees
In Canada, immigration is a complex process and the applicable law differs based on the exact nature of every case. In January, the CIC rolled out its express entry for economic immigration, which is particularly advantageous for applicants who can obtain LMIA approved job offers. Under this new system, if selected for an Invitation to Apply, applicants in the economic class could gain entry to Canada in fewer than six months.
The first applicant accepted was Emma Hughes, a chemist from Ireland, who applied in January and gained permanent resident status on March 26. There’s no denying that this new system can work efficiently for some applicants, and it proves that the government can fast-track immigration in certain categories, when it really wants to. So the question many are asking to refugee law offices is, why does it still take so long to reunite families separated by conflict?
In fact, when refugees to Canada try to apply to have their family members allowed to Canada with them, the wait time for application processing is 31 months, or just over two and a half years. During this long wait, many people are left waiting in dangerous conditions. Their safety and security are endangered by this long wait, as many face the same conditions and persecution that caused their family member to flee to Canada in the first place. This has prompted the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) to urge Canada’s immigration officials to institute an express entry system for refugee reunification.
The CCR has also published a document including the stories of several families separated by delayed reunification. The names have been changed to protect the people in these stories, but they paint a very grim picture of the situations that are being exacerbated by long wait times, and it’s noted by refugee law offices that many situations involve children being separated from their parents. Children and other family members that are situated in the Middle East or Africa are facing particularly long wait times.
In 1989, the Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. Today, Canada is one of 194 countries that have signed the Convention and are bound by international law to guarantee the rights and freedoms set out in the Convention. This includes reuniting children with their parents or guardians in a timely manner. It is the belief of some that by subjecting families in general, and children in particular, to such extreme wait times, Canada’s immigration system violates the Convention, and this is cited as further cause to implement an express entry system for family reunification.
With such a system in place, theoretically many more families could find safe accommodations in our country together, and not be separated by extreme distances that put some family members in danger. And with the help of a refugee law office, those who have already landed in Canada and been accepted could have an easier time sponsoring their still at-risk family members.