For Immediate release


20 June 2005, Montreal. This World Refugee Day has a bittersweet flavour for refugees in Canada who have had to separate from their spouses and children in their flight for safety. This day is meant to celebrate the courage and determination of survivors of conflict and human rights abuse, and welcome them to their new home. But Canada has rendered that welcome bittersweet by delaying many refugees’’ reunification with their families. Rather than helping refugees in Canada re-establish themselves by expediting reunification with their immediate family, many such families wait years to see each other again.

Canada`s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act recognizes the right of refugee families to be together, explicitly stating so in its objectives. But many refugees face lengthy delays and unreasonable barriers in trying to satisfy Citizenship and Immigration Canada’’s demand for identity documents, medical testing and security checks.

"I feel very bad...I sometimes feel maybe I should kill myself that might bring attention to the problem but I’’m a believer. It’’s not possible to express how deep is my sadness. The people in charge should pay more attention."

Jean Martin Lenga Numbi, a Convention refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, applied to bring his wife and children to Canada in 1999. In December 2004 his son died of malaria and in April 2005 his wife suffered a heart attack and died after gunshots were fired on her home. He now fears he’’ll lose two of his remaining children as his wife’’s family is threatening to move them away.

"I worry about my children and wife. The violence and demonstrations in [...] make it difficult for my children to go to school...they have no status in that country...I tell my family I am doing my best to bring them...”

Tsering Chokyab, a Convention refugee from Tibet, could not afford for three years the $1150 in processing fees to apply to bring his wife and children from the country in South Asia where they are living without protection.

This World Refugee Day the Canadian Council for Refugees calls on Canada’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to show compassion by allowing the spouses and children of refugees to be processed here in Canada. Nick Summers, President of the Canadian Council for Refugees asks: “Is it not cruel of Canada to offer a person refuge, only to leave their families behind for years in anguish? These delays cannot be justified.”

In 1995 the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended: “The Committee recommends [...] that every feasible measure be taken to facilitate and speed up the reunification of the family in cases where one or more of the members of the family have been considered eligible for refugee status in Canada.”

For more information, see the CCR Report “More than a Nightmare: Delays in Refugee Family Reunification” at (or from the CCR “What’’s New” page)

Nick Summers, President (709) 682-9329
Janet Dench, Executive Director (514) 277-7223 (ext. 2)
To arrange interview (in French or English) with an affected refugee, contact Catherine Balfour (514) 277-7223 (ext. 1)

The Canadian Council for Refugees is a non-profit umbrella organization committed to the rights and protection of refugees in Canada and around the world and to the settlement of refugees and immigrants in Canada. The membership is made up of over 180 organizations involved in refugee sponsorship and protection and in newcomer settlement. The CCR serves the networking, information-exchange and advocacy needs of its membership.