Barriers to family reunification for Haitians post-earthquake

Canadian Council for Refugees

Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes

Media release

For immediate release
23 March 2010

Barriers to family reunification for Haitians post-earthquake

The Canadian immigration response to the earthquake in Haiti fails completely to meet the urgent needs for family reunification, according to the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) and the Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes (TCRI).

More than two months after the earthquake, the federal government has issued very few visas to allow Haitians in distress to reunite with family in Canada. Even in cases of children separated from both parents, and living in the streets since the earthquake, Citizenship and Immigration Canada is issuing few or no temporary permits to ensure immediate reunification.  While waiting, some of these children are not getting enough to eat and girls are at risk of sexual assault, a widespread problem at this time.

“The government has shown, in the case of adopted children, that it can move fast to bring children whose security is at risk,” said Wanda Yamamoto, CCR President.  “We are asking the government to give the same priority to children whose biological mother or father is in Canada.”

Eline's childrenThe 13-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son of Éline François have been in the street since the earthquake.  Ms François, a recognized refugee in Canada, had filed her application for family reunification in 2009.  She hoped that the children could come on a temporary permit so that they could be safe in Canada during the processing of their file.  Last week the Embassy in Port-au-Prince refused their request for temporary admission.

Other concerns include:

  • Numerous Haitians have been in Canada without permanent status for many years.  Without permanent residence, they have no access to family reunification and nothing is being proposed to solve this situation in a timely way.
  • The special program put in place by the Government of Quebec is proving ill-adapted to the realities of Quebecers of Haitian origin.  In the vast majority of cases they are unable to meet the eligibility criteria, particularly because of the high financial requirements.
  • CIC’s communications on expediting family reunification applications exclude refugees, despite repeated requests to correct this error.  Their communications speak only of Family Class sponsorships, while refugee family reunification does not involve sponsorship.

See the CCR recommendations,

Colleen French, CCR Communications Coordinator, (514) 277-7223 ext. 1
Stephan Reichhold, TCRI, (514) 272-6060 ext. 1