The Canadian government is following through on its commitment to reduce immigration wait times. In recent weeks, two refugee families sponsored by Nest arrived in the city much sooner than expected.
A single parent Eritrean family living in Sudan arrived at the Saskatoon airport on March 23, about 18 months after Nest’s sponsorship application was approved. According to the Canadian government’s website, the average wait time for privately sponsored refugees through Sudan is 62 months. Similarly, an Iraqi refugee family in Malaysia arrived in Saskatoon on April 12 after 9 months. The average wait time through Malaysia is 54 months.
The Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship announced last December that it planned to reduce wait times to about 12 months and eliminate the backlog of refugee cases by 2019. The new immigration and refugee minister, the Hon. Ahmed Hussen, (pictured left) is following through on that commitment.
By the end of 2016, there were about 45,000 private sponsorship of refugee (PSR) applications in the Canadian immigration system. Of those, 6,400 applicants had waited more than three years for approval.
Nest chairperson Faith Rohrbough described the government’s decision to reduce wait times “a wonderful gift” that will help make this holiday season a lot brighter for thousands of refugee families waiting to come to Canada.
Nest also is pleased the government will not limit or “cap” applications from the overseas Visa offices – a policy that tends to discriminate against claimants from Africa.
Canada will welcome a total of 300,000 new permanent residents this year. The overall immigration level for 2017 remains above the average of 250,000 per year between 2000 – 2015. But groups like the Canadian Council for Refugees believe the level should be higher. CCR wants immigration targets set at a minimum of 1% of the population, which would raise the number to 350,000.
The government will allow 16,000 private sponsorships of refugees in 2017, but intends to limit the number of new applications from Sponsorship Agreement Holders to 7,500 – down from 16,000 in 2016 – to help clear the backlog.
Nest is disappointed the government restricted applications rather than expanded staff.
In addition, refugee sponsorship groups are “deeply disappointed” the government plans to bring only 7,500 government assisted refugees (GAR) this year. The Canadian Council for Refugees states: “It is particularly distressing that Canada would not increase its commitment at a time when the global need. . .is greater than ever.”
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees projects 1,190,000 refugees need to be settled in 2017.
The Canadian Council for Refugees wants the government to resettle at least 20,000 GARs annually. “The private sponsorship should never take the place of government responsibility towards refugees,” the CCR states on its website. “As a principle, government resettlement numbers should always be higher than the numbers resettled by civil society. However, according to the 2017 levels plan, privately sponsored refugees will make up 64% of the total number of refugees resettled to Canada.”