France Fast-Tracks Citizenship for Frontline Workers

Broader in scope than Canadian measures. Something for Canadian policy makers and politicians to consider:

Nine months after its president declared “war” against the coronavirus, France announced Tuesday that it has fast-tracked hundreds of citizenship applications from foreign frontline workers who have distinguished themselves in the battle.

“Foreign workers gave their time and swung into action for all of us during the Covid crisis,” said Marlène Schiappa, France’s junior minister for citizenship. “It is now up to the Republic to take a step toward them.”

The beneficiaries include not just health care workers but also garbage collectors, housekeepers and cashiers, Ms. Schiappa said.

The fast-tracking measure is a notable departure for a country that has adopted increasingly tight immigration rules. Caught in the clog of paperwork, citizenship applications can take years to complete, and the number of naturalizations has been decreasing over the years.

Some 48,000 people acquired French nationality through naturalization last year, or about 18 percent fewer than in 2015, according to statistics from the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies.

‘Why not us?’: Asylum seekers on COVID-19 front lines demand permanent residency

All too predictable, the understandable debates over who’s in and who’s out, which happens with respect to most government programs, whether immigration or other:

Doll Jean Frejus Nguessan Bi says he couldn’t sleep at all last night.

The asylum seeker from Ivory Coast works as a security guard in hospitals and long-term care homes in the Montreal area, where he watched many of his colleagues stop coming in as deaths linked to COVID-19 began to mount this spring.

But while Nguessan Bi kept working, he said he found out Friday that he would be excluded from a new government program to fast-track the permanent residency applications of some asylum seekers working on the front lines during the pandemic.

“Why (not) us? We who gave our hearts and our love… Why are we abandoned?” he said in an interview at a protest camp across the street from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Montreal riding office Saturday. “What did we do to deserve this?”

Ottawa announced Friday that asylum seekers working in specific jobs in the health-care sector would be eligible for permanent residency without first having to wait for their asylum claims to be accepted, as is typically the process.

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said the move came in response to public demand for so-called “Guardian Angels” — many in Quebec — to be recognized for their work.

“They demonstrated a uniquely Canadian quality in that they were looking out for others and so that is why is today is so special,” Mendicino said in an interview Friday afternoon.

But asylum seekers and their supporters say Ottawa’s plan excludes thousands of workers without permanent status in Canada who have laboured on the front lines during the pandemic, often at great personal risk to themselves and their families.

That includes security guards and janitorial staff, factory workers, and farm labourers, among others.

“I have friends who worked with me in security that abandoned (their posts) because they were afraid of getting infected. But I stayed,” said Nguessan Bi.

He said he wants Trudeau and Quebec Premier Francois Legault to do something to help asylum seekers who are not eligible for the new program.

Several dozen people rallied in front of Trudeau’s office on Saturday to demand permanent residency for all asylum seekers.

“It’s an act of recognition. They deserve status,” Joseph Clormeus, a member of Debout pour la dignite, a Montreal advocacy group that organized the rally, told the crowd.

Anite Presume, a Haitian asylum seeker who came to Quebec in August 2017 from the United States, was among the protesters.

She works in a medication factory, and said she kept working during the pandemic despite the risks.

“To take the bus, we were all stressed, but we still went to work because it was essential. They needed medication for the hospitals,” she said in an interview.

She said she has not received a response yet to her application for asylum in Canada, and lives under a cloud of uncertainty and stress about her future.

“It’s a feeling of rejection,” Presume said, about not being included in Ottawa’s regularization program. “They rejected us as if we did nothing.”

To apply for residency under the new program, applicants must have claimed asylum in Canada prior to March 13 and have spent no less than 120 hours working as an orderly, nurse or another designated occupation between the date of their claim and Aug. 14.

They must also demonstrate they have six months of experience in the profession before they can receive permanent residency and have until the end of August 2021 to meet that requirement.

The program was the result of negotiations between the federal government and Quebec, who have had a strained relationship on the question of immigration, and in particular the asylum claimants, in recent years.

Public support has been building for asylum seekers’ demand for permanent residency after it was revealed that refugee claimants were among those toiling in Quebec’s long-term care facilities, which were hard-hit by COVID-19.

Source: ‘Why not us?’: Asylum seekers on COVID-19 front lines demand permanent residency

Ottawa begins fast-tracking asylum claims from selected countries

While there are risks involved, there does appear to have been careful consideration in terms of the groups and circumstances subject to fast-tracking. And given the backlog and numbers, some form of triage is necessary to separate out more straightforward cases from more complex:

Overwhelmed by asylum claims from irregular migrants crossing the U.S. border, the Immigration and Refugee Board is fast-tracking “less complex” cases from selected countries.

On Tuesday, refugee judges began assessing claims under what is known as a file-review process — meaning a decision is made based on submissions from claimants — without a hearing — and a short-hearing process, where there are few disputable issues.

“These new instructions are examples of initiatives recently put in place to slow the growth of the inventory and wait times for claimants,” refugee board chairman Richard Wex told the Star. “By matching our efforts with the complexity of each claim, we are using our resources more effectively, which will result in more refugee claim decisions.”

The latest statistics show the board has more than 73,000 outstanding claims and the wait time for a hearing now hovers at around 24 months. Many of the claims are from asylum seekers who came through the U.S.-Canada border since late 2015 after U.S. President Donald Trump came into the office with a mandate to crack down on illegal migrants.

In December, the board started triaging the claims based on two newly created lists of countries and claims. In total, 25 refugee judges have been assigned to the new effort.

To qualify for the file-review process, a claimant must be from one of 14 countries: Afghanistan, Burundi, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Turkey, Venezuela and Yemen.

However, not every claim from these countries will be automatically expedited.

For instance, only those Saudi Arabian claims alleging persecution based on gender or religious sect can be assessed without a hearing. For asylum seekers from Libya, claims must involve corruption, extortion, kidnapping or threat of kidnapping by militias.

Only some claims from 11 countries are recommended for short hearings: sexual orientation persecution in the Bahamas, Barbados, Iran, Russia, Rwanda and Venezuela; fleeing criminality and corruption in Nigeria, Peru, Saint Vincent and St. Lucia; and threats in Djibouti due to one’s political opinion and activism.

According to the refugee board, these countries and claims were selected for faster processing because they have an acceptance rate of 80 per cent or higher and the type of risks the asylum seekers face are generally well documented.

Officials said a failed claimant under the file-review process is entitled to a full hearing by a refugee judge.

Source: Ottawa begins fast-tracking asylum claims from selected countriesThe Immigration and Refugee Board now fast-tracks “less complex” asylum claims by reviewing evidence without a full hearing as backlog climbs to 74,000 cases with wait times of up to 24 months.

In contrast to the neutral reporting, a typical example of over the top conservative commentary rather than a measured discussion of the risks involved.

The Conservatives also introduced streamlined and tighter processes under the Balanced Refugee Reform Act and the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act with mixed success (Former Tory government’s refugee reforms get failing grade | The Star:

The Trudeau government is fast-tracking the approval process for asylum claimants coming from the world’s most violent and dangerous societies.

As I first reported in April 2017, the government was looking at ways to rubber stamp claimants to address the massive backlog of asylum applications that has accumulated in recent years.

This week, they finally rolled out their new controversial process.

Under the new system, individuals from select countries will be accepted as refugees without ever having to present their case in person or appear before an Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) judge.

Instead, they’ll be waved through based on what they call a “file review” — a paper application often filled out by a trained immigration lawyer or consultant.

The government justifies these changes by saying the new rules only affect “less complex” cases — in essence, cases dealing with people coming from refugee-producing countries.

The problem is that refugee-producing countries can also be terrorist-producing countries.

According to a notice posted by the IRB, the new rubber stamp program will apply to “all claims” from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Burundi and Eritrea.

Other countries whose citizens are now eligible for fast-tracked acceptance into Canada include Iran, Libya, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Venezuela, Turkey and Egypt.

These changes come just weeks after we learned that a person considered a “national security concern” was admitted to Canada and granted permanent residency.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said this was “entirely unacceptable” and the CBSA president said it was the result of “a series of failures.”

Skipping IRB interviews will only make Canada more vulnerable.

The new fast-tracked system was designed to address the backlog of over 64,000 applications that has grown alongside the dramatic spike in asylum applications and the ongoing crisis of illegal border crossers circumventing Canada’s immigration and border laws.

In 2017, 50,390 migrants entered Canada legally and illegally to make refugee claims. That number jumped to 55,695 last year.

The Trudeau government has done little to stop the record surge in asylum claimants. In fact, there’s ample evidence that the feds are helping to facilitate illegal border crossers.

Just look at Roxham Road — home to 95% of all illegal crossings.

The feds built a land-bridge to make it easier for migrants to enter Canada illegally. They set up a makeshift border station to start processing asylum claims, and they began to offer shuttle bus services to bring migrants to Montreal and Toronto — where they’re given access to government-funded housing, healthcare and other taxpayer-funded services.

The Trudeau government has repeatedly created incentives and encouraged people to come to Canada to make asylum claims. And now, to deal with the backlog that they themselves created, they’re waving through asylum claimants from violent, dangerous and unstable parts of the world.

Rather than carefully and methodically reviewing cases presented by asylum claimants, the government is now skipping important steps and rushing through the process.

But without so much as a short interview with an immigration judge, how can we be sure that the individuals are fleeing violence and are not part of the violence?

The Trudeau government haphazardly opened our borders and invited the world’s migrants to come to Canada. Now, the government is quietly chipping away at the safeguards that were designed to keep Canadians safe.

Source: MALCOLM: Feds roll out fast-tracking for asylum claimants from dangerous countries