18 June 2004

Montréal.  On the eve of World Refugee Day (20 June), the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) deplores the inhumane and excessive delays in Canadian procedures for reuniting the families of refugees.

“It is unacceptable that a country that claims to be humanitarian should keep refugees accepted in Canada separated from their families for years” said Nick Summers, CCR President. “These timeframes are even less acceptable in the case of families waiting in countries at war or in refugee camps.”

Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s statistics on processing times show that in some regions of the world, the majority of refugee families must wait more than two years before they can travel to Canada to be reunited with their family members here.  This is the case for the Democratic Republic of Congo and the countries of West Africa.

“The most outrageous situation is when there are minor children who are separated from their parents,” said Felly Ngankoy of the Communauté Catholique Congolaise de Montréal.  “How is it possible that the government has no expedited procedure for separated children, even though many of these children are in countries at war where their life is in danger and there is a strong risk of being recruited as child soldiers?”

It is worth noting that one of the objectives of the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Protection Act is “to support the self-sufficiency and the social and economic well-being of refugees by facilitating reunification with their family members in Canada.”

The CCR is endorsing the March for speedy reunification of refugee families which will take place in Montréal on Saturday19 June (departing 11am at 200 René-Lévesque West).  The objectives of the March are to raise public awareness and to demand policy changes.

The CCR is calling for immigration policies to be amended so that, as soon as a refugee is accepted in Canada, immediate family members who are overseas can travel at once to Canada.  Processing of their applications, including security reviews and medicals, could then be conducted in Canada.

Contact persons:

Janet Dench, Executive Director (514) 277-7223 (ext. 2)
Felly Ngankoy, Communauté Catholique Congolaise de Montréal, (514) 290-4441