Reduce red tape preventing Afghan refugees from coming to Canada
To hear Afghan refugees and their advocates tell it, Canada opens its arms to refugees only to close them before many manage to slip through.
Ottawa certainly opened its arms wide last summer when it rolled out two measures designed to provide a quick and efficient immigration process for those seeking to leave Afghanistan.
The “Special Immigration Program” was introduced for Afghans who had assisted the Canadian government, such as interpreters and staff at the Canadian Embassy in Kabul, while the Humanitarian Program was implemented to resettle members vulnerable groups, including women politicians and lawyers, religious minorities. and journalists.
Yet just as Canada announced its ambitious goal of welcoming 40,000 Afghan refugees, the country began to give in. Between last August and early February, a total of 7,550 Afghan migrants arrived in Canada. At this rate, it would take more than two and a half years to reach the goal.
In the volatile, unstable and often lawless Taliban Afghanistan, more than two years is, or might as well be, an eternity. Many people, especially members of vulnerable groups, will not survive that long.
To be fair, the weekly average of migrants successfully arriving in Canada has increased in recent weeks, and the stalling of the immigration process is largely in spite of, not because of, the work of immigration officers.
Yet the unprecedented demand and urgency of the situation, as well as the “bureaucratic nightmare” that characterizes Canada’s immigration and refugee system, have made it almost impossible to achieve the ambitious humanitarian objectives that we are fixed. Fortunately, however, both of these concerns can be resolved.
First, as the situation essentially amounts to an emergency, we must treat it as such. Given the volume and urgency of claims, Ottawa needs to commit more resources, at least temporarily, to ensure faster processing of refugee claims.
And, as the Star reports, while the backlog is being processed, the federal government could enlist the help of contractors to transport asylum seekers to a safe third country while their claims are adjudicated.
Second, the Global Refugee and Migration Council, chaired by former Foreign Secretary Lloyd Axworthy, has offered several helpful suggestions for reducing bureaucracy.
For example, while the special immigration and humanitarian programs introduced last summer were helpful, it’s not entirely clear who can apply to one or the other. Other than acting as an interpreter or a member of embassy staff, it remains unclear what constitutes assistance to the Government of Canada.
Similarly, while the humanitarian program was created for vulnerable Afghans, it is unclear what constitutes ‘vulnerable’. The refugee council advises Ottawa to clarify the two programs and interpret the provisions broadly.
Finally, while asylum seekers are normally required to prove their refugee status as part of the application process, Ottawa waived this requirement for refugees during the 2015-2018 Syrian refugee crisis. This made it possible to quickly process a large number of requests.
Ottawa can also drop this requirement now and declare the Afghans At first glance refugees. This would allow visa officers to avoid much of the bureaucracy and focus on medical, criminal and security screening of asylum seekers, thereby ensuring the safety of Canadians and refugees.
Indeed, the speedy resolution of asylum claims is good for everyone — for migrants, who need a safe new country to embrace, and for Canadians, who need to embrace new talent and diversity. And there’s nothing harder than trying to embrace the world when you’re handcuffed by bureaucracy.