Advocates Push For Children’s Immigration Applications to be Processed Within 6 Months

New Processing Deadline Would Help Reunite Refugee Families More Quickly

The national advocacy group, Canadian Council for Refugees, is calling on the federal government to reduce processing times for children’s immigration applications to just six months.

The group has described the current wait times for application processing as “unacceptable.”

According to Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, Canada is legally obligated under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to process family reunification applications humanely and expeditiously.

Dench told the Canadian Press that expediting the application process is critical because many children of refugees have been separated from both of their parents, are not being properly cared for, and are often at risk of physical and sexual abuse.

The reason for this separation, according to Dench, is that in many refugee cases, parents must leave their children with a grandparent or family member, or even neighbours in their home countries, so that they can flee to Canada.

Jennifer Wan, a Toronto-based immigration lawyer, told the Canadian Press that she knows of two refugee parents from India who have been waiting years for their children to join them in Canada.

The parents had been issued refugee status in July 2019 after fleeing violence in their home country of India. The couple had applied for their children to come to Canada only a few months later, but are still waiting on a decision.

Wan agreed with the Canadian Council for Refugees, stating that the Canadian government should prioritize family reunification cases that involve children separated from their parents, especially if they are in danger or are not receiving proper care.

Immigration processing has been severely affected over the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as the entire immigration processing system has been operating at reduced capacity. Travel restrictions and difficulties obtaining documents have added to the complications that many refugee families are facing.

However, Alexander Cohen, a spokesman for Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, told the Canadian Press that the government is prioritizing certain refugee cases throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Since the onset of the pandemic, we have prioritized processing of vulnerable persons, family members and those in essential services,” he said. “We’re prioritizing applications from refugees sponsoring their dependants … and are also assessing the results of two pilot programs to improve processing for protected persons with dependants abroad.”