Lives still on hold – reaction to the lifting of the moratoria

Media release

For immediate release

23 July 2009

Lives still on hold – reaction to the lifting of the moratoria

Today’s government announcement on the lifting of the moratoria on removals to Burundi, Rwanda and Liberia represents the continuation of a policy that is harmful to the affected persons and contrary to the interests of Canadian society, according to the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR), la Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes (TCRI) and the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI).

The organizations have been urging the government for many years to create a regulatory class that provides permanent residence to all persons from countries to which Canada does not remove who have been in Canada for three or more years.

“We appreciate the fact that the government is putting in place certain measures for the affected people, at the time of lifting the moratoria, contrary to what happened in the case of Algeria in 2002,” said Roberto Jovel, Vice-President of the CCR.  “However, a process that lacks any clear criteria is extremely demanding for applicants and produces arbitrary results, depending on the discretion of the decision-maker.  Furthermore, such a process is more costly for the taxpayer.”

“We deplore the fact that people have spent 5, 10 or even 15 years in Canada without being granted permanent status, and that they must now undergo another evaluation,” said Stephan Reichhold, Executive Director of the TCRI.  “For those who will end up being accepted, we ask why wait so long to grant status?  And for those who will be refused, we ask whether it is fair to send them away after so many years in Canada?”

The organizations underline that numerous nationals of the countries still subject to a moratorium (Afghanistan, Haiti, Iraq, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe) are in limbo, without status in Canada, but unable to return home because of insecurity there. Their lives are on hold.  The CCR, la TCRI and OCASI reiterate their call for permanent residence to be granted to all these persons who have been in Canada for three years or more.

The organizations also deplored the move to close the door on nationals of moratoria countries at the US-Canada border, by eliminating the rule exempting them from the Safe Third Country Agreement. Significant numbers of refugees will be denied protection because of shortcomings in the US asylum system. In the case of francophones, they are unable to seek refuge in a country where they already speak the language. This new measure, combined with the imposition of visas on Mexicans and Czechs, drastically reduces the number of refugees who can seek asylum in Canada. Of refugee claims made in 2008, more than 40% would have been excluded by these measures.

To learn about the reality of people in limbo and why humanitarian and compassionate (H&C) applications are not an adequate solution, see:

A recent example illustrating how difficult it can be to be accepted under H&C:

A woman from a moratorium country has been in Canada since 2001. She is working, has taken language classes, goes to a church that supports her, and has an adult son in Canada.  Despite all this, her H&C application was refused.  The immigration officer considered that her level of settlement was not high enough to merit permanent residence.

To understand the rules to date for claims made at the US border and why the US is not safe for all refugees, see:

Colleen French, CCR Communications Coordinator, (514) 277-7223 ext. 1
Stephan Reichhold, TCRI, (514) 272-6060 ext. 1
Amy Casipullai, OCASI, (416) 524-4950 ext. 239