Refugees must spend 14 days in self-isolation away from usual shelters: Blair

Will be interesting to see how this works in practice and the overall effects on the numbers:

Refugees arriving to Canada amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic must now spend 14 days in self-isolation away from the usual shelters, Canada’s public safety minister announced on Tuesday.

The new refugees must also be screened for “evidence of (COVID-19) symptoms and questioned” about their travel history, Bill Blair said during the federal government’s most recent update on the measures being employed to stall the spread of the virus.

When someone enters Canada and claims protection through Canada’s refugee system (whether it be as a United Nations- or privately-sponsored refugee, or as asylum claimant), they are first screened by Canada’s border agency. Anyone determined by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to have had a criminal history or who may pose a threat to Canada are not allowed in the country. Blair said this screening typically takes 24 hours.

After passing an initial screening, Blair said refugees will be moved to “appropriate shelter” for their two-week isolation, separate from usual temporary housings in places like Montreal, which has become a popular settlement location partly owing to its proximity to Roxham Road, an unauthorized border crossing in southern Quebec.

“We are doing this because we believe it is necessary and in the best interest of keeping all Canadians healthy and safe,” Blair said.

The government reports there were 64,045 asylum claims made in Canada in 2019.According to Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) statistics,there were 42,491 refugee protection claims made in Canada last year. By the end of 2019, the government was still faced with 87,270 pending claims.

Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and the IRB have had to make suspensions to their services amidst the COVID-19 pandemic as well. IRCC is suspending all in-person appointments until at least April 13, while IRB is postponing its in-person hearings and mediations until at least April 5.

These new rules for incoming refugees come as the federal government takes steps to restrict access to Canada, much like other countries around the globe have done, in an attempt to thwart the spread of COVID-19.

On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that most non-residents would be banned from entering Canada. Canadian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families, as well as American citizens, diplomats and aircrews, as well as those entering the country for the purpose of trade or commerce, are exempted from the ban.

The CBSA is asking all travellers who are still able to return to Canada to isolate themselves for 14 days once they enter the country. If within that time someone suffers from symptoms of COVID-19 (such as a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing), they’re asked to reach out to health authorities to advise them of their travels.

Canada’s deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo said on Monday that with the data available at that time that almost nine-in-10 cases (87 per cent), had been related to travel outside of the country.

According to Canada’s chief public health officer Theresa Tam, there have now been 180,000 cases of COVID-19 identified across 160 countries worldwide. As of midday on Tuesday, 37,ooo people in Canada had been tested for the coronavirus, with more than 440 cases being reported as positive. Five Canadians had died from COVID-19 by Tuesday, with Ontario reporting its first death the morning after British Columbia declared three patients of the illness inside its borders had succumbed to the disease.

Source: Refugees must spend 14 days in self-isolation away from usual shelters: Blair

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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