Long delays at Nairobi visa office decried

Canadian Council for Refugees

For immediate release
  2 November 2009

Long delays at Nairobi visa office decried

The Canadian Council for Refugees published today a report, Nairobi: Protection Delayed, Protection denied, highlighting the extraordinarily long processing times at the Nairobi visa office.  The report focuses on cases of refugee family reunification and privately sponsored refugees.

“The long delays at Nairobi are completely unacceptable,” said Elizabeth McWeeny, President of the Canadian Council for Refugees.  “Refugees need protection: these long delays mean protection is denied.  Children are often in a vulnerable situation while they wait to be reunited with their parents in Canada.  The longer the wait, the greater the risk to the security, the health and even the lives of refugees.  We call on the government to turn its attention urgently to solving this grave problem.”

The CCR report presents statistics showing the extent of the problem at Nairobi, absolutely and in comparison with other visa offices, including the following:

  • Half the cases of refugee dependants in Nairobi take more than 23 months (compared to 14 months globally).
  • Half the cases of privately sponsored refugees in Nairobi take more than 42 months (compared to 19 months globally).
  • Processing times for refugee dependants in Nairobi have increased from 15 months three years ago to 23 months now.
  • Processing times for privately sponsored refugees in Nairobi have increased from 31 months three years ago to 42 months now.
  • 24% of pending refugee dependant cases worldwide are in Nairobi.
  • 30% of pending privately sponsored cases worldwide are in Nairobi.

The report also profiles some of the people affected by the long delays.

  • Amina and her three children, Ethiopian refugees, have been waiting for over 5 years for processing of their private sponsorship application.  In the meantime, Amina’s husband died of malaria in Kakuma refugee camp.

    From a message from Amina: “I am living in intolerable conditions in a refugee camp in search of peace and security, hoping that I will be able to raise my children in a safe environment one day. Considering the conditions that I described above, could you please help me in moving my case forward toward finalizing my immigration process.”

  • Walter, Jackson and Violette are Congolese orphans who have been waiting over 5 years to come to Canada, where their older brother lives.  They are living in a refugee camp for 10 years.
  • Lisa, aged 14, and her 10-year-old brother Jordan were recently reunited with their mother, a refugee in Canada.  Processing of their family reunification application took 5 years.
  • Sylvie and her husband, both refugees in Canada, are still waiting for reunification with their children left behind in Congo.  It is over 3 years since they were informed that the children’s files would be processed in Nairobi.

[All names are fictitious to preserve privacy.]

“We see in our daily work the devastating impact of the extremely long delays in family reunification,” said Mahad Yusuf, Executive Director, Midaynta Community Services, Toronto.  “Many of our clients are Somali: because of the delays in Nairobi, we are finding that family reunification is becoming almost impossible for our community.”

“The Nairobi visa office processes applications from some of the most vulnerable refugee populations in the world,” said Fikre Tsehai, Director, Refugee Program, Canadian Lutheran World Relief, an organization that sponsors refugees.  “In fact, the government has announced that the Horn of Africa represents a priority for Canada’s resettlement operations. And yet, the long delays at the visa office are not only inconsistent with this priority, but also display a lack of fairness and compassion towards the refugees.  The long delays have also become a source of frustration to our members who wish to sponsor refugees. CIC needs to address this as an urgent matter and provide solutions.”

The Nairobi visa office covers 18 countries, including Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda.  The region hosts large numbers of refugees.

The report, Nairobi: Protection Delayed, Protection denied, is available at http://www.ccrweb.ca/documents/Nairobireport.pdf

Colleen French, CCR Communications Coordinator, (514) 277-7223 ext. 1