Refugee family reunification delays made worse through low immigration targets

Canadian Council for Refugees
Media release

22 September 2022

Refugee family reunification delays made worse through low immigration targets

The Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) today called on the federal government to increase the immigration levels so that refugees are not forced to wait years to be reunited with their immediate family members.

The CCR has for decades been drawing attention to the excruciatingly long delays that refugees often face before their spouse and children can join them in Canada. Government targets exacerbate the issue: in February 2022, the Minister announced a target of only 24,500 for “Protected Persons in Canada and Dependents Abroad” in the current year, while nearly 70,000 applications were already in the queue at that time. As explained in our recent report, “Accepted refugees: on hold and separated from their family”, this means that the government is planning to make refugees wait 2-3 years before they can be reunited with their families.

Protected Persons in Canada are people who have been found to be refugees by the Immigration and Refugee Board, or through the Pre-Removal Risk Assessment. For those whose spouse and children are outside Canada, they must apply for and receive permanent residence themselves and then wait for Canada to issue permanent residence visas to the family members overseas.

As the gap grows between the number of people accepted as refugees and the immigration target, people will be forced to wait longer and longer. These years of separation have terrible consequences for families. A mother described her experience of separation from her husband and two of her children:

My kids and I lost four years from our lives together. We suffered a lot; I went through severe depression; I was thinking of suicide a lot. I couldn’t handle life without my kids, and my kids at the same time were suffering. They stopped going to school; they lived in constant fear. No healthcare, no school, their lives and my life stopped.

The detrimental impact of long waits for reunion with family members is huge – and even potentially fatal for family members who are living in a situation of war or where they are targeted by persecutors. It is unacceptable that family reunification should be further delayed because the government chooses to impose further years of waiting by setting immigration targets too low. Part of Canada’s obligation towards refugees is to ensure timely family reunification – the government must act now to reduce wait times!

For more information

Read the CCR report "Accepted refugees: on hold and separated from their family"

Media contact

Janet Dench, Excecutive Director,