Political Storm Swirls Around Britain’s Refugee Surge

Of note:

Some held their hands aloft in celebration; others simply slumped to the ground in the 24°C heat, exhausted from the ordeal they’d just endured.

That was the scene on the south coast of England this week, when at least 430 migrants — including infants too young to walk — made landfall. They had braved the 20-mile crossing from either France or Belgium, navigating the world’s busiest shipping lane aboard flimsy inflatable boats.

Meanwhile, 70 miles away in Westminster, the fate of those who’ll arrive in the months and years ahead was being aired, as UK lawmakers debated the government’s planned reform of refugee policy.

Undocumented migration is a convulsive political issue in post-Brexit Britain. Departure from Europe was sold as a chance to buttress the country’s creaking borders — yet, since the start of the year, some 8,000 people have reached British soil with the help of boat-borne smugglers. Monday’s surge represented the highest number of arrivals on record, with 2020’s total of 8,417 likely to be topped in the coming weeks.

Addressing this is the job of UK Home Secretary Priti Patel, a divisive politician who’s pinned her reputation on stemming the flow of refugees.

She is the brains behind the ‘Nationality and Borders Bill’ — legislation that will make it a criminal offence to enter the country without permission, with a penalty of up to four years in prison. It also raises the prospect of a new overseas detention scheme, in which asylum-seekers could be sent to a “safe third country” while their claims are considered. Thus far, no third-party nation has agreed to participate.

It would be a firm but fair system, Patel says, designed to deter vulnerable people from placing their lives in the hands of unscrupulous traffickers. Instead of crossing to the UK, asylum applications should be made wherever in Europe refugees first find themselves, the government argues.

It’s a legally dubious position. Though, under European law, migrants should have their claims processed in the jurisdiction of their arrival, the 1951 UN Refugee Convention makes clear that asylum-seekers must face no legal discrimination, and suggests that their unlawful entry to a country shouldn’t result in prosecution.

And there’s another, more human consideration that critics say must be accounted for: that no amount of securitisation will deter needy people enticed by the UK’s reputation for defending human rights, offering legal protection to those in direst need, upholding the rule of law, and celebrating — not condemning — multiculturalism .

That is why migrants have always been drawn to British shores, often in far, far greater numbers than those seen today. (Arrivals topped 100,000 per year in the early 2000s).

The difference now, partly thanks to COVID-19 shutting rail and road migration routes, is that their arrival is a more visible, maritime spectacle. Headlines are hard for politicians, but photos of foreigners wading ashore is a whole different level. Coupled with a bureaucratic meltdown at the Home Office — the number of asylum-seekers awaiting a decision has doubled since 2014 — it’s little surprise the British government is coming down hard.

The truth, however, is that the UK’s refugee situation is far less onerous than it is for its nearest neighbours. Britain ranks 17th out of 28 European countries in terms of asylum applications, with around a third of those confronting authorities in France and Germany.

Such stats obscure the human story. That every one is a person, often vulnerable and fleeing persecution or poverty, willing to risk it all for a better, brighter future.

Source: Political Storm Swirls Around Britain’s Refugee Surge

Home Office ‘acting unlawfully’ in rush to deport asylum seekers

Yet again:

Hundreds of people arriving in England in small boats are being immediately detained in immigration removal centres, raising fears of a new, secret Home Office policy to deport them without their asylum claims being properly considered.

Among the detainees are apparent trafficking and torture victims from countries including Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, who would normally be allowed asylum accommodation in the community while their claims are processed but instead are effectively imprisoned.

Children are also among those who have crossed the Channel and have been sent directly to immigration removal centres, with solicitors claiming the Home Office has classed minors as adults despite not age-assessing them in person.

Some small-boat asylum seekers have been denied access to a lawyer since early May after landing and being immediately detained in a removal centre.

Campaigners said the development was “not the act of a civilised and compassionate nation”.

The outcry follows the publication of home secretary Priti Patel’s nationality and borders bill on Tuesday. It claims to reform the asylum system but has been described by the UN as having an “almost neocolonial approach” in allowing the UK to shirk its international responsibilities to refugees.

Immigration lawyers say the apparent undisclosed policy change, which appears to have been introduced over the past two months, is unlawful and they are preparing to challenge it.

Toufique Hossain, director of public law and immigration at Duncan Lewis, described it as a potentially “grave abuse of power”.

Hossain added: “They have effectively started bypassing the asylum system and saying to individuals with strong claims that their claim is weak, that they may not get an appeal and that they intend to remove them quickly.

“The whole starting point is to disbelieve people arriving from places where the Home Office knows individuals have a well-founded fear of harm and persecution.”

The shift appears to have affected hundreds already, with Duncan Lewis receiving reports that the UK’s network of immigration removal centres is overwhelmed.

Harmondsworth removal centre near Heathrow airport – whose capacity is 670 – is understood to be “overwhelmed”. The Home Office is also filling Brook House at Gatwick airport and Colnbrook, near Heathrow – combined capacity 850 – with small boat arrivals.

“Detention centres are being filled with people who have just arrived but who are not being released into the community,” said Tom Nunn of Duncan Lewis.

He added they are aware of more than 50 Vietnamese nationals, a country which is one of the top sources for trafficking into the UK.

In addition, there is speculation that the Home Office has chartered a deportation flight to Vietnam at the end of July for small boat arrivals, although the government would not confirm this.

Nunn said the firm was aware of Iraqis and Afghans who had indicators of torture, but whom the Home Office had apparently detained in contravention of the established asylum process.

“There have been a few cases where medical advice from doctors in the immigration centre is that they are victims of torture,” said Nunn. “But we are seeing a lot of cases where the Home Office is pushing back on this, basically saying that: ‘You’re a victim of torture but we believe we can remove you quickly and therefore we’ll keep you in detention.”

Clare Moseley of charity Care4Calais said: “To detain and deport such vulnerable people in this way is not the act of a civilised and compassionate nation. If we fail to ensure that those who need our help are treated in a fair and decent manner we risk losing our reputation as a decent and honest society.”

Usually asylum seekers are placed in special accommodation while their claims are heard, a process that can often take longer than a year. Currently there is a record backlog of 109,000 cases in the system with over 79,000 being processed for more than a year.

This is not the first time that the Home Office appears to have quietly introduced measures that reduce the rights and protection of asylum seekers.

Last year the Home Office secretly shortened asylum screening interviews for arrivals in the UK, a move that meant torture and trafficking victims could be deported far more quickly.

Last week, however, the high court ruled that Patel should quickly bring back to the UK a small boat asylum seeker and Sudanese torture survivor who was removed to France.

The 38-year-old was tracked down by Liberty Investigates and the Observer in an investigation whose evidence paved the way for last week’s government defeat.

Called Omar in the investigation, he had nine of the 11 indicators of trafficking and torture yet was deported to France last August after just two months in the UK.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We assess the suitability of all new arrivals and only detain people when there is a realistic prospect of their removal within a reasonable timescale, and evidence of their vulnerability is outweighed by immigration considerations.

“It is inaccurate to say unaccompanied minors are being classed as adults during age assessment interviews. The Home Office makes every effort to ensure people’s age is assessed correctly, in the interests of safeguarding and to avoid abuse of the system.”

They added that the government would “crack down on illegal entry and the criminality associated with it”.

The spokesperson said: “People should claim asylum in the first safe country they arrive in and we must ensure dangerous journeys are not incentivised.”

Source: Home Office ‘acting unlawfully’ in rush to deport asylum seekers

In Australia, a New Look at Immigration: ‘It’s About Our Friends’

Another example of how the personal trumps the official narratives by highlighting inhumanity (as was the case with Alan Kurdi or the Kamloops residential school deaths):

The 3-year-old girl was born in Australia, in a tiny town called Biloela, far from the big cities of Sydney and Melbourne. But her parents were asylum seekers from Sri Lanka and living in a country that heavily discourages illegal migration, so the government sent them to a faraway island while deciding their fate.

This week the girl, Tharnicaa Murugappan, returned to mainland Australia, but not for the reason her family had hoped — she was medically evacuated to Perth, where she is now battling a blood infection in a hospital after a lengthy illness. Supporters of the family say she was given only painkillers for nearly two weeks at the remote government detention facility while her fever rose, and she now suffers from pneumonia, which led to her blood infection.

Tharnicaa and her family, often called the “Biloela family” among Australians, are the most high-profile asylum seekers in Australia. In a country that is inured to criticism from international human rights organizations over its “draconian” immigration policy, the detentions of Tharnicaa and her older sister have drawn outrage.

Tharnicaa’s illness has renewed calls for the family to be released from detention and prompted candlelight vigils and protests across Australia. Over half a million people have signed a petition demanding the family be returned to Biloela, a town of about 5,800 that is 260 miles northwest of Brisbane. Politicians from both sides have called for the family to be released from detention while maintaining support for the hard-line immigration policies that put them there. Karen Andrews, the home affairs minister, has been so inundated with calls about the case that her voicemail specifies that anyone wanting to speak to her about it should do so in writing.

The Murugappan family — mother Kokilapathmapriya Nadesalingam, father Nadesalingam Murugappan, Tharnicaa and her 6-year-old sister, Kopika — are the only people held in the Christmas Island detention center, which is 1,000 miles north of the Australian mainland. The two sisters, who both were born in Australia, are the only two children currently being held in immigration detention in Australia. Unlike the United States, Australia does not automatically grant citizenship to children born in the country, and the two girls are ineligible as the children of “unlawful maritime arrivals.”

The case is unusual in that the small rural town of Biloela, which has been leading the fight to get the family back, is a politically conservative place. But when the family was whisked away by immigration officials in 2018 after their claims for asylum were rejected and their temporary visas expired, locals weren’t thinking about politics. This case “wasn’t about politics or asylum seekers, it was about our friends,” said Simone Cameron, a Biloela local and friend of the family.

The family has been held on Christmas Island since 2019, as they fight government efforts to deport them to Sri Lanka.

Late last month, supporters of the family said, Ms. Nadesalingam and Mr. Murugappan started raising concerns with International Health and Medical Services, the private company that provides health care for the Christmas Island detention center, after Tharnicaa developed a fever on May 24. Requests for antibiotics were ignored, and the family was only given over-the-counter painkillers and a fact sheet about common flu symptoms, even as her fever increased and she started vomiting.

Tharnicaa was hospitalized on Christmas Island on June 6, according to the supporters. The next day, she was evacuated, along with her mother, to a hospital in the mainland city of Perth. She is recovering, but doctors are still trying to find the cause of the infection.

“It was the pure negligence of them not actually giving Tharnicaa antibiotics that led to her developing pneumonia,” a family friend, Angela Fredericks, said in a phone interview on Thursday. She added that the family had to “beg and fight” for Tharnicaa to be evacuated to the mainland.

In previous statements, Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews has defended Tharnicaa’s treatment, saying she was evacuated to Perth as soon as it was recommended. International Health and Medical Services did not respond to requests for comment.

Japan’s proposed immigration law revisions deal fresh blow to refugees

Of note:

While Japan accepts very few refugee applications annually, legal changes designed to crack down on what the government says are abuses of the asylum process are expected to make it even harder for genuine refugees to find shelter in the country.

Japan has been criticized by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees for accepting only around 1 percent of applications it receives. In 2020, it certified just 47 people as refugees out of the 3,936 applications lodged.

Moradi, an Iranian who fled to Japan in 2007 and declined to give his full name, was granted refugee status last year after winning a case at the Tokyo High Court to conclude a 13-year legal struggle. He filed a total of three applications and two lawsuits.

“I felt like I was reborn after spending so many days just enduring. I plan to live in this country for the rest of my life,” he said through a Japanese interpreter.

The 56-year-old converted from Islam to Christianity and said he would be considered an apostate and could even face execution if he returns to Iran. Moradi now lives in Saitama Prefecture with his Iranian wife, who he later brought to Japan, and works full-time at a recycling company.

According to the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, of those who were recognized as refugees by Japan between 2010 and 2018, about 9 percent, or 19 people, had applied multiple times.

But Japan’s parliament on Friday started deliberations on a bill that aims to amend the immigration law so that foreigners can be deported after they have applied for refugee status three times.

As of January 2020, there were around 82,000 foreigners illegally overstaying in Japan. Some 10,000 repatriate annually after receiving deportation orders but about 3,000 stay in the country each year, making repeated asylum applications as deportation procedures are automatically halted for people claiming refugee status.

Tomoko Uraki, a lawyer representing Moradi, said the revisions could result in the deportation of refugees who, like her client, should be protected.

“People who would be recognized as refugees in other countries are not being recognized in Japan, but that part of the law is not being revised,” she said.

Shogo Watanabe, a lawyer who specializes in helping people from Myanmar apply for refugee status, notes that none of the 2,000 Myanmarese who applied for asylum in the past three years was approved.

“It is clearly wrong to push through a provision allowing deportation after the third application before carrying out the proper practice of refugee recognition,” he said.

In a joint statement dated March 31, a group of United Nations’ experts called on the Japanese government to review its proposed revisions, saying they failed to meet international standards from the standpoint of human rights.

The bill lacks provisions specifying a maximum detention period and instead contains penalties for foreigners who refuse to return to their countries of origin, including up to one year in prison for those who physically resist while on an airplane.

Source: Japan’s proposed immigration law revisions deal fresh blow to refugees

AOC Expertly Breaks Down Why Words About Immigration Matter

Interesting reframing of the increase in asylum seekers at the Southern border:

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) gave a compelling argument on immigration policy on Tuesday, dismissing the term “border crisis” and instead calling it an “imperialism crisis” and a “climate crisis.”

While answering questions from her Instagram followers Tuesday night, Ocasio-Cortez responded to someone who asked, “Why are you not addressing the border crisis and the kids in cages like you used to?”

“Are you for real?” Ocasio-Cortez responded. “So often people wanna say, ‘Why aren’t you talking about the border crisis?’ Or ‘why aren’t you talking about it in this way?’ Well, we’re talking about it; they just don’t like how we’re talking about it.”

Ocasio-Cortez continued, saying it’s not a border crisis but rather, “It’s an imperialism crisis, it’s a climate crisis, it’s a trade crisis.” The current immigration system is based on the U.S. carceral system, she said, and the solution should be “rooted in foreign policy.”

Last month, White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed that there had been an influx of people at the U.S.-Mexico border in recent months, overwhelming the facilities set up to house them. Psaki said factors including the pandemic creating “undue hardships,” natural disasters, and flight from violence or persecution has contributed to the rise in people.

Ocasio-Cortez attributed the United States’ outsized role in the climate crisis to the increase of natural disasters in regions including the global south, which has ultimately forced people in those regions to leave their homes.

“The U.S. has disproportionately contributed to the total amount of emissions that is causing a planetary climate crisis right now,” Ocasio-Cortez continued on Instagram. “But who is bearing the brunt of that? … It’s actually not us.”

She continued: “It’s South Asia, it’s Latin America that are gonna be experiencing the floods, wildfires and droughts in a disproportionate way, which ding ding ding, has already started a migration crisis.”

Ocasio-Cortez also denounced calling the increased number of people crossing the border a “surge,” because of the term’s militaristic and white supremacist connotations.

“This is not a surge. These are children,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “And they are not insurgents. And we are not being invaded — which by the way is a white supremacist idea, philosophy. The idea that if an other is coming in the population, that this is like an invasion of who we are.”

Last week, President Joe Biden addressed immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border during his first official press conference, including children being detained for long periods of time instead of being transferred to shelters. Biden said the increase in people migrating to the U.S. in the winter months occurs every year. (While the total number of people crossing the border is relatively similar to prior years during the same period, the number of unaccompanied children crossing the border between January and February 2021 is significantly up, government data shows.)

“The reason they’re coming is that it’s the time they can travel with the least likelihood of dying on the way because of the heat in the desert, number one,” Biden said.

He proposed “putting together a bipartisan plan of over $700 million to deal with the root causes of why people are leaving” their countries. Biden also said former President Trump eliminated funding for government agencies like Health and Human Services to provide proper care for migrant families, which has led to the influx of children being detained. (NBC reported that this claim is partially true.)

Source: AOC Expertly Breaks Down Why Words About Immigration Matter

Un peu d’humanité s’il vous plaît, M. Legault

More on the “gardian angels” by Quebec opposition members:

Marie (nom fictif), le téléphone dans la main droite et sa petite fille de deux ans agrippée à son bras gauche, tente désespérément de récupérer les passeports de toute la famille détenus par Citoyenneté et immigration Canada (CIC) afin d’obtenir une copie certifiée de toutes les pages des précieux carnets et de les acheminer au ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration (MIFI) à Québec. L’épisode est kafkaïen. La tâche de récupérer tous les documents exigés par le MIFI afin de compléter le dossier du programme des « anges gardiens » est titanesque. Peu importe, elle fera tout pour avoir accès à ce certificat de sélection du Québec (CSQ) béni qui les conduira, elle et ses enfants, à la résidence permanente.

Une résidence permanente pour Marie, veuve d’un préposé aux bénéficiaires mort de la COVID-19, lui permettra de sortir la tête des eaux troubles de la pauvreté. Ça voudra dire pouvoir envoyer ses enfants de deux et trois ans en garderie et, donc, travailler comme préposée aux bénéficiaires, métier pour lequel elle a étudié, et contribuer à la société québécoise. Ça voudra dire aussi ne plus avoir peur d’être expulsée en Haïti, qui sombre de plus en plus dans l’anarchie. L’anxiété est à son comble.

Marie a soumis sa demande en décembre, dès l’ouverture du programme des anges gardiens visant les étrangers au statut précaire qui ont prodigué des soins au printemps dernier dans le domaine de la santé. Et tout traîne toujours.

Même si ce programme est pancanadien, le gouvernement Legault, en raison d’un accord avec le gouvernement fédéral en matière d’immigration, demande une liste différente de documents à fournir. « Les exigences du MIFI sont inadaptées à la crise », nous dit Me Guillaume Cliche-Rivard, spécialiste en droit de l’immigration. Et pourtant, pour Québec, tout va bien, Madame la Marquise.

La lenteur avec laquelle la CAQ traite la régularisation des « anges gardiens » n’est pas seulement honteuse, elle nuit à la société québécoise.

Dans un article de Radio-Canada, on apprenait la semaine dernière qu’en deux mois, seulement 3 dossiers sur 721 ont été approuvés au Québec. Tandis que dans le reste du Canada, ce sont 459 dossiers sur 932. Pourquoi ? Par manque de volonté politique ou incompétence dans sa mise en œuvre ? Les questions se posent et cela n’aide personne.

Ce qui est absurde dans tout ceci, c’est que ce manque d’humanité, cette bureaucratie digne des 12 travaux d’Astérix du gouvernement de la CAQ, n’a rien de bon pour le Québec. Elle laisse des gens dévoués dans une grande précarité avec tous les dommages collatéraux que cela implique. La précarité est synonyme de pauvreté et d’exclusion sociale. Leur situation les rend vulnérables à l’exploitation de toutes sortes. L’incertitude quant à leur statut crée aussi un climat anxiogène qui se transmet à toute la famille, et la santé mentale en prend un coup énorme. Tout ce désespoir accable les ressources communautaires, qui sont déjà à bout de souffle.

Le gouvernement se doit d’accélérer le processus de traitement des demandes du programme. Il doit aussi l’élargir et l’ouvrir aux travailleurs de la santé qui ont travaillé au-delà du 14 août 2020. La guerre contre la COVID-19 n’est pas terminée. Ces gens-là donnent encore à manger aux malades, les nettoient, les aident. Certains ont même contracté le coronavirus. Il faut les considérer.

Le gouvernement doit finalement accepter la main tendue d’Ottawa qui souhaite élargir le programme à d’autres travailleurs essentiels de la santé, comme les gardiens de sécurité et les gens responsables de l’entretien, entre autres.

La ministre, Nadine Girault, doit imposer un leadership fort. Ce n’est pourtant pas le cas. Ce manque de vision nous désespère. Le sentiment d’exclusion qui est en train de se développer nous conduit tout droit vers une intégration toute croche. Mauvaise intégration, pauvreté, exclusion : les ingrédients pour un gros gâchis. C’est très mauvais pour le Québec.

Si le gouvernement a décidé d’en prendre moins, il devrait peut-être en prendre soin.

Paule Robitaille et Christine St-Pierre, Respectivement députée de Bourassa-Sauvé, porte-parole en matière de lutte contre la pauvreté ; et députée de l’Acadie, porte-parole en matière d’immigration

Source: Un peu d’humanité s’il vous plaît, M. Legault

Few Quebec ‘guardian angels’ who worked in health care during COVID granted residency

Hard to understand the reasons for the delays:

Advocates for asylum seekers who worked in health care during the pandemic’s first wave are calling on Quebec to speed up the processing of immigration applications from workers dubbed “guardian angels” by the premier.

In December, the federal government launched two special programs allowing asylum seekers who worked in the health-care sector during the early part of the health crisis to apply for permanent residency.

One program, which applies outside Quebec and is run by the federal government, has received 932 applications for permanent residency, according to the most recent data available. Of those, 459 had been approved in principle as of Feb. 20, the federal Immigration Department said in an email.

The other program is run through an agreement between Ottawa and Quebec. The federal government said it has received 721 applications — the first step in the process. Of those, just three applications for permanent residency have been approved in principle by the federal government, the Immigration Department said.

Wilner Cayo, president of Debout pour la dignite, a group that advocates for asylum seekers to be given status, said the difference shows a lack of political commitment from Quebec. “Quebec has always been very reluctant to recognize the extraordinary contribution of the ‘guardian angel’ asylum seekers,” Cayo said in an interview Tuesday.

Premier Francois Legault said Tuesday he was unaware Quebec was lagging behind other provinces, adding that the criteria for the program was decided in conjunction with the federal government. “There is no instruction given not to accelerate the acceptance of these people,” Legault told reporters in Quebec City.

“On the contrary, we want to keep our word.”

Cayo said the delays have caused people to put their lives on hold. Some “guardian angels,” he said, are waiting for permanent residency so they can earn a degree or take a training program.

Many are parents, he said, adding that without permanent residency, they don’t have access to Quebec’s public daycare program. For people with low salaries, paying for private daycare has a big impact on their quality of life, Cayo said.

“It’s a big disadvantage.”

Marjorie Villefranche, director of La Maison d’Haiti, a community group that works with newly arrived immigrants, said applicants in Quebec have an additional step compared with asylum seekers in the rest of the country. After their initial applications are approved by the federal government, they have to apply to the province to receive a Quebec selection certificate. Once that is issued, they have to apply to Ottawa for permanent residency.

Villefranche said Quebec needs to put additional resources into application processing. “I don’t think there’s any political will,” she said in a recent interview.

Flore Bouchon, a spokeswoman for Quebec Immigration Minister Nadine Girault, said the government hasn’t received any formal complaints about the program from immigration support organizations or from the affected asylum seekers.

Files are processed “within a very reasonable time frame, 21 days on average,” she wrote in a recent email. The number of applicants who have received Quebec selection certificates is a sign of the program’s success, she wrote.

As of March 19, the Quebec government had received 389 requests for Quebec selection certificates and 114 of those requests had been finalized, she said. Counting applicants and dependants, 237 people have been given Quebec certificates, Bouchon wrote.

Quebec Immigration Department spokeswoman Arianne Methot said after certificates are issued, applications become the responsibility of the federal Immigration Department.

Alexander Cohen, press secretary for federal Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, said delays are to be expected with a new program. Ottawa’s priority, he said in a recent interview, is expanding the program to include more workers.

The two special programs are only open to people who worked at least 120 hours between March 13 and Aug. 14, 2020, and who provided direct care in a health-care establishment in Canada.

Villefanche said she would like to see the program expanded to more workers who may have been exposed to COVID-19 on the job but who didn’t provide direct care, such as cleaning staff. She said she would also like the August deadline extended because she said it’s not fair to people who provided vital care during the second wave of the pandemic.

“It’s like if there was a good wave and a bad wave,” she said. “This is ridiculous.”

Source: Few Quebec ‘guardian angels’ who worked in health care during COVID granted residency

Quebec making it difficult for asylum seekers to get permanent residency, advocates say

Ironic given issue and advocacy first emerged in Quebec if memory serves me correctly:

In the three months since the federal government launched a program to provide permanent residency to some asylum seekers, the number of people living in Quebec who have been approved can be counted on one hand.

Out of 462 asylum seekers who have been able to complete the process, only three live in the province, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. Advocates say it’s proof the Quebec government is making things too difficult for applicants.

The federal government launched a program last December for so-called “guardian angels” — asylum seekers who worked in health-care facilities during the height of the pandemic.

Source: Quebec making it difficult for asylum seekers to get permanent residency, advocates say

Thousands of asylum seekers stuck at home as work permit approvals slow during pandemic

IRCC operational difficulties:

Marius Tapé is bored, restless and frustrated.

The engineer arrived in Canada from the Ivory Coast in July with his teenage daughter, joining his wife and three other children who had already settled in Granby, Que.

Tapé says his family fled the Ivory Coast after he and his wife were attacked for his political affiliation. They are trying to start a new life here, but it’s been tough.

Source: Thousands of asylum seekers stuck at home as work permit approvals slow during pandemic

Border agency reports spike of nearly 6,000 immigrant children crossing into US alone

Less than 10 percent of 2019 numbers:

Thousands of unaccompanied immigrant children are attempting to flee to the United States amid the coronavirus pandemic, propelled by devastating natural disasters, chronic violence, and severe economic hardship at home.

US Customs and Border Protection encountered 5,871 kids at the south-west border without a parent or legal guardian last month, the largest influx yet since the start of the public health crisis in early 2020.

That sudden spike is still relatively modest compared to huge figures from fiscal year 2019, when Border Patrol apprehended more than 76,000 unaccompanied children, a trend that reached its zenith that spring.

But unlike in past years, the Office of Refugee Resettlement – which cares for those kids – has had to slash its housing capacity nearly in half in light of Covid-19. And, with nearly 5,700 of 7,100 total beds already accounted for, ORR is preparing to resurrect a controversial influx facility to create space.

“Even though the numbers of children in custody are still relatively low by historical standards,” the lack of available shelter beds is cause for concern, warned Mark Greenberg, director of the Human Services Initiative at the Migration Policy Institute.

Greenberg added: “If we return to the levels that had been experienced in all recent years except 2020, it will pose a significant challenge because of Covid.”

As more migrants attempt the arduous journey across the US-Mexico border, CBP officials are citing push factors such as “underlying crime and instability” in their countries of origin and “inaccurate perceptions of shifts in immigration and border security policies”.

Before taking office, Joe Biden’s administrationwarned that its comparatively pro-immigrant agenda would not translate to an immediate shift at the border. On Wednesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated that, despite rare exceptions, the vast majority of migrants are still being turned away.

“Now is not the time to come,” she said.

Since 2014, a flood of immigrant children and families largely from Central America’s Northern Triangle have made their way to the US, many in search of refuge from a crush of gang-related violence, poverty and persecution. Between fiscal year 2013 and 2014, CBP apprehensions of unaccompanied children at the south-west border surged by 77%, while apprehensions for families more than quadrupled.

That significant change heralded a new era in US border migration, defined by asylum seekers and other vulnerable populations. In response to the humanitarian crisis, former president Donald Trump devised hard-line tactics to try to deter Central Americans and others from seeking protection in the US, then used Covid-19 as a rationale to effectively shutter the border altogether to defenseless migrants.

Under the guise of public health, the Trump administration subjected hundreds of thousands of people – and at least 13,000 unaccompanied children, according to the ACLU – to rapid expulsion from the US without due process during the pandemic.

A federal judge eventually blocked the US government from applying that policy to unaccompanied minors, and Biden has said he will not resume expulsions for kids who show up without a parent or guardian, according to CBS News.

But amid the border closure, children unable to safely enter US custody have turned to perilous border crossings, said Erika Pinheiro, policy and litigation director at Al Otro Lado.

“They suffer so much,” she said. “And the fact that the US government forces them to suffer more is really hurtful to think about.”

In an elaborate game of telephone, news articles about immigration enforcement in the US and Mexico have gotten distorted in the foreign press, then exploited by smugglers, who have every incentive to spread rumors encouraging people to cross the border.

“There’s sort of like one message that comes out of the news. It gets repeated down here, maybe not completely accurately, and then the smugglers really capitalize on that, too. So it sort of builds on itself,” Pinheiro said.

As the number of unaccompanied children encountered by border enforcement increases to levels not seen since the summer of 2019, ORR is preparing to reactivate a temporary influx care facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas, that will initially be able to house about 700 kids.

The remote Carrizo Springs facility was opened in July, 2019, but closed in a few short weeks.

ORR said officials anticipate “the need to start placing children at Carrizo Springs in 15 days or soon after”, a move that has alarmed some advocates.

“There’s no reason to warehouse these children in these potentially dangerous facilities,” Linda Brandmiller, an immigration attorney in San Antonio, told USA Today.

Unaccompanied kids have been arriving primarily from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras in recent years. The vast majority are teenagers.

“In a substantial number of cases, they are fleeing for their lives,” Greenberg said. “But whether that will allow them to qualify for asylum will depend upon how asylum policies are now changed.”

Source: Border agency reports spike of nearly 6,000 immigrant children crossing into US alone