Opening economic immigration track to refugees a ‘win-win,’ says UNHCR rep

This has been discussed for some time with some organizations advocating for this (Talent Beyond Boundaries) and the government is piloting the Economic Mobility Pathways Project (EMPP):

Canada should consider letting in some skilled refugees as economic immigrants, says Canada’s new United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and with it, establish a new avenue for refugees to resettle, which could be used to help people in dire need in countries in crisis, like Venezuela.

Doing this would open up a track beyond the resettlement quota and the typical pathway for refugees, said Rema Jamous Imseis.

Canada plans to expand the number of immigrants accepted to 350,000 by 2021, including 51,700 protected persons and refugee programs, and 202,300 through economic and skills programs, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s (IRCC) 2019 plan.

“This is something entirely different. It’s recognizing that refugees come with skill sets; you have a lot of highly educated people who already speak English and [have] years of rich work experience in different parts of the world,” she explained. “Why not look at some of these people?”

Any efforts to increase the number taken out of harm’s way and also benefit Canada, is “a win-win,”she added. While qualified, she noted a refugee fleeing a country may not have the expected documents; some may be missing copies of degrees, or birth certificates, or may be missing experience in a relevant field in recent years.

Even if the economic immigration stream is expanded to include one per cent of refugees in its total, it’d make a difference addressing the massive amounts of displacement globally, which over the past few years has reached “epic proportions,” she said.

“I don’t use that word lightly,” Ms. Imseis said during a Feb. 14 interview less than two weeks on the job. She’d spent that week immersed in resettlement discussions, including co-hosting an international meeting on the subject.

Canada recently launched a very small pilot to start and while it’s too early to put a timeline on introducing such system changes, she said she’s encouraged by the fact that “there’s a lot of interest and facilitation” from the government. For good reason, it’s initially going to be a slow process, she said.

“You can’t dramatically change a system overnight.”

IRCC spokesman Rémi Larivière said  Canada is known for its leadership in developing innovative programs that support refugees seeking protection.

Canada has been exploring labour mobility as a complementary pathway, he said, and IRCC’s first step was to establish the Economic Mobility Pathways Project (EMPP). Research with partners demonstrated that there are skilled refugees in Kenya and the Middle East who meet the requirements of Canada’s economic immigration programs, he said.

The need is so great for those living in extreme vulnerability, and yet so few get the “life-saving and life-changing” chance at resettlement, Ms. Imseis said. Of the 1.4-million people in need of resettlement in 2019, only about 64,000 refugees were resettled, according to theUNHCR.

In Canada, so far four applicants, along with nine family members, have arrived through the project and another four applicants and their families are expected to arrive shortly, Mr. Larivière said, with an expected 10 to 20 to arrive over the next year. A second research face will begin in April 2020, with results available by early 2021.

The hope is to use those case studies to “see if there are opportunities to finesse [the] system and maybe overcome some of these hurdles,” said Ms. Imseis, while keeping the same standards and targeting in-demand professions.

“Nobody’s lowering the threshold for them, it’s just about now trying to find ways to deal with the reality of being a refugee and how we can support applications under this track.”

Such changes could widen the opportunity to bring in migrants where the need is most, she said, including those affected by the unfolding crisis in Venezuela, where almost five-million have fled in the face of increasing food shortages and political unrest, with the Nicolas Maduro regime still in power despite world leaders, like Canada, supporting Juan Guaidó.

Source: Opening economic immigration track to refugees a ‘win-win,’ says UNHCR rep

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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