Refugees face intolerable delays waiting for family reunification

Canadian Council for Refugees
Media Release

For immediate release
27 May 2015

Refugees face intolerable delays waiting for family reunification

The Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) published today the stories of several refugee families waiting years for Canadian immigration processing. Processing times for family members of refugees overseas are 31 months. Many of those affected are children.

The CCR is calling for an Express Entry program for family reunification to ensure that children are reunited with their parents in six months or less.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has recently launched an Express Entry economic program, under which immigrants with a valid job offer will have their applications processed in 6 months or less.

“We believe that children should be reunited with their parents at least as quickly as immigrants are brought to Canada to fill a job,” said Loly Rico, CCR President. “It is completely unacceptable that families are routinely separated for two years or more. In the case of refugees, family members themselves are often at risk in the home country, due to the same persecution that the refugee fled. It does not need to be this way: it’s a question of priorities.”

Among the families profiled:

  • A husband and children, already targeted politically, are caught up in the current escalating violence in Burundi. While waiting for immigration processing, a daughter, then aged 7 years, was sexually assaulted.
  • A 9 year old boy, living with his sick grandmother, is at risk of forced gang recruitment. He tells his mother: “I am so sad. I miss you. I want to be with you in Canada. When can I come?”
  • Four Syrian children, the youngest just 11 years old, have been waiting for over a year to be reunited with their mother in Canada. They cannot understand the delay and feel abandoned by their mother.
  • In Ecuador, children have been waiting more than 3 years already to be reunited with their father in Canada. In the meantime they are under threat from their father’s persecutors. One daughter has died in suspicious circumstances. Her sister writes: “Please, Lord, can you help us be together again with our father?  Can anyone help us? We only want to be with our dad and never leave his side.”

Processing times are particularly long in Africa. Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Canada has a legal obligation to deal with applications to reunite children with their parents “in a positive, humane and expeditious manner”.

Read the stories of families affected by the long delays at

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Janet Dench, 514-277-7223, ext. 2,