For immediate release
Lifting of the moratoria on Haiti and Zimbabwe: concerns for affected persons
The lifting of the moratoria on removals to Haiti and Zimbabwe, announced by the government yesterday, will subject people to a risk of violence and increased precariousness, according to the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR), la Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes (TCRI), la Maison d’Haïti and the Refugee Lawyers Association of Ontario.
“The government is planning to send people back to situations of great violence, according to the government’s own information,” said Loly Rico, CCR President. “It’s contradictory to warn people of the risks of violence in countries, at the same time as saying that the moratorium on removals to those countries can be lifted.”
According to the Canadian government, “The security situation is hazardous and very unpredictable. Remain extremely vigilant wherever you are in the country. Criminal activity is especially evident in large centres such as downtown Port-au-Prince, where armed gangs continue to operate.” The government also notes “an increase in armed robberies targeting travellers, particularly foreigners of Haitian origin, arriving on international flights at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince.”
As for Zimbabwe, the government advises travellers to “exercise a high degree of caution due to the unpredictable security situation and carefully evaluate the implications for your security and safety” and notes that “Crime, exacerbated by a very difficult economic situation, remains a serious problem for foreign visitors and residents alike.”
The organizations urge the federal government to create a regulatory class that provides permanent residence to Haitians, Zimbabweans and other persons from countries to which Canada does not remove who have been in Canada for three or more years.
The organizations appreciate the fact that the government is giving affected people an opportunity to make an application for humanitarian and compassionate consideration. However, as the CCR has documented, this is a process that lacks clear criteria for acceptance, is extremely demanding for applicants and produces arbitrary results, depending highly on the discretion of the decision-maker. Furthermore, such a process is more costly than a regulatory class for the taxpayer, as each file must be studied at great length.
“Thousands of people have been living for years in a precarious situation” said Marjorie Villefranche, Executive Director of the Maison d’Haïti. “They must be accepted here in Canada so that they can get on with their lives in security in Canada and be reunited with their families.”
As in other recent cases where moratoria were lifted (Rwandans, Burundians and Algerians) the majority of persons affected are in Quebec. However, in the previous cases, Quebec played a key role in resolving cases. The organizations are concerned that to date there has been no mention of the government of Québec playing the same role in this case.
The organizations also highlight that people have been living in a state of great uncertainty and the news will provoke many worries. The news must be properly communicated, including the sending of individual letter to each affected person. Community organizations that will be faced with numerous requests for help from Haitians and Zimbabweans must be given the necessary resources to assist them.
To learn about the reality of people in limbo and why humanitarian and compassionate (H&C) applications are not an adequate solution, see:
Lives on Hold - the Limits of H&C, http://ccrweb.ca/sites/ccrweb.ca/files/static-files/LivesonholdH&C.pdf
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Colleen French, Communication Coordinator, Canadian Council for Refugees, 514-277-7223, ext. 1, (514) 602-2098 (cell), firstname.lastname@example.org