Falconer: Report says Canada should loosen visa requirements to allow more Ukrainian refugees

Of note. But should this be an addition to current levels or at the expense of economic or family class? Or to fulfill some of the labour demand currently being filled by Temporary Foreign Workers? And would waiving the visa requirement create pressures to do the same for other refugees?

A new report says Canada needs to change its federal visa policy to speed up the admission of Ukrainian refugees, which has slowed to a trickle.

The study by the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy released Thursday says that compared to other countries, Canada has received a small number of the millions of Ukrainians who have been displaced since Russia invaded the eastern European country in February.

“Applications by Ukrainians are starting to far outstrip the number that are being granted by the Canadian government and we don’t even have a really clear picture of how many Ukrainians are coming into the country,” said author Robert Falconer.

Statistics show the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET) program, which expedites visas and temporary residency permits for Ukrainians and their families, isn’t enough, he said.

As of June 22, there were approximately 190,000 Ukrainians with pending applications to come to Canada, up from 140,000 about one month earlier.

Falconer said the program, requiring those arriving to have visas, is to blame for Canada lagging behind other countries — most notably Ireland, which has waived its visa requirement.

“One of the objections within the committee in Parliament was if we let Ukrainians in, then Russian spies would use that to infiltrate the system,” he said.

“Russian espionage does exist, but the refugee channel is one of the more inefficient ways to try and infiltrate a Russian spy into the country.”

Falconer said federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies, with proper resources, would be able to manage security risks involving the visa process. He recommends Canada adopt the Irish model or another option to do visa checks once people arrive.

“If we’re not doing the Irish model, I would say we do what’s called the on-arrival model, which is what a lot of countries do. When you arrive at the airport, you have to wait for a small period while the government officials run the security checks,” Falconer said.

“You do some risk assessments and can probably vet that eight-year-old kid who is probably not a Russian spy whereas an unaccompanied male in their mid-20s … you might hold them while you process the background check and let them into the country. Let them get here to safety first and then process them from there.”

Falconer said an overwhelming number of Canadians support bringing in a high number of Ukrainian refugees and our country has the highest percentage of people of Ukrainian descent next to Ukraine and Russia.

The report says Canada and the United Kingdom have similar processes for the admission of Ukrainian refugees and the numbers are comparable.

It says about 13 times the number of Ukrainian refugees per capita arrived in Ireland than in the United Kingdom during the first two months of the invasion.

Falconer said the findings of the report are to be forwarded to the federal government, but he isn’t sure whether it would result in a loosening of the requirements.

“I think they’re probably aware. I think they are very, very, very concerned — less with Ukrainians and more with how the overall immigration file is going generally.”

Source: Report says Canada should loosen visa requirements to allow more Ukrainian refugees

Kuluberhan: Why do some asylum seekers make it into the West quickly – while others have to wait more than a decade?

More questioning of double standards. Reality is a bit more complex than presented as Canada’s response to Syrian refugees attests (but not so with respect to Afghan refugees):

They were middle-class Europeans who looked more like the family living next door than the refugees Western countries had become so accustomed to seeing trickle across their borders. At least, that’s how Western news media and politicians often depicted the Ukrainian citizens who were forced to flee their homes following the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

As a second-generation Canadian and the daughter of two Eritrean refugees, the distinctions made between refugees felt like textbook dog-whistles that were impossible to ignore. Indeed, when I travelled to Ethiopia and visited my uncle this past May, I witnessed first-hand how refugees who don’t look like people who might live next door – who come from places that are not seen as “civilized” – have become forgotten casualties of broken asylum systems.

Picture this: You grow up living in an eight-bedroom home in a residential neighbourhood two hours outside the capital city. Your father runs a public transportation business, and your mother is a shopkeeper who sells spices. You and your seven siblings attend the only private school in town. The life you lead is a good one – until one day, the political situation in your country changes and suddenly your family loses everything. Before you know it, nearly two decades pass by in the refugee camp where you’ve been waiting in limbo for your asylum papers to arrive.

This is my uncle’s story, in a nutshell. Despite hailing from Ethiopia, the life he led prior to the 1998 Ethiopia-Eritrea border war was not all that different from the life of your average middle-class Canadian citizen. Yet December will mark 18 years since my uncle first filed an asylum claim in 2004. He does not “seem so like us,” as one Telegraph writer described Ukrainian asylum seekers – and there is no telling when his ordeal will end.

Meanwhile, the Canadian government announced measures in March that would fast-track the arrival of an unlimited number of Ukrainians fleeing the war and allow them to apply for a renewable three-year temporary residence. Many wondered why the same quick action couldn’t be taken for the refugees who have languished in the system for years. But during a CBS News broadcast report from Kyiv in late February, senior foreign correspondent Charlie D’Agata voiced what had to that point been largely implicit: Ukraine, he declared, “isn’t a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan, that has seen conflict raging for decades. This is a relatively civilized, relatively European – I have to choose those words carefully, too – city, one where you wouldn’t expect that, or hope that it’s going to happen.”

Research studies have long indicated that lengthy asylum processes adversely affect the mental health of refugee claimants, leading to an increased risk of life-long psychiatric disorders. My uncle is no exception. After my uncle spent15 years in the Shimelba camp in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, we lost all contact with him for two years until 2021, when he was found homeless on the streets of Addis Ababa. When I met him, his mental health had deteriorated to such a point that my family decided to pool resources and place him in a private facility where he could receive treatment for depression while he continued waiting to be granted asylum.

While his case is an extreme one, long asylum wait-times are not uncommon. In a 2017 memo, the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada estimated that by 2021, wait times for asylum claims would take up to 11 years – much closer to the bleak reality faced by refugees than the projected 24-month period indicated on the board’s website.

Canada moving at a breakneck speed to implement targeted supports for Ukrainian asylum seekers was a reminder that our refugee policies are not race-blind commitments to humanitarianism. Who a country welcomes across its borders and into its society reveals who that country believes belongs, who doesn’t, and which lives are worth saving.

Criticism of slow resettlement processes are usually met with the excuse that the increase in the number of asylum claims has placed an untenable weight on a system already weakened by a mounting backlog. Yet the response to the Ukraine crisis, in Canada and elsewhere, has revealed how governments in the West can operate like well-oiled machines when they feel the need.

Of course, we should applaud our government for the exemplary support it provided to Ukrainians in need. Now we must urge them to apply this same urgency and care to all refugees, equally.

Hermona Kuluberhan is an Ottawa-based writer currently completing a master’s in journalism at Carleton University.

Source: Why do some asylum seekers make it into the West quickly – while others have to wait more than a decade? 

Zelenskyy responds to petition demanding mandatory test for obtaining Ukrainian citizenship

More on the citizenship petition and reaction, particularly touchy given Russian weaponization of citizenship and efforts to destroy Ukrainian identity and citizenship:

The document was registered on the presidential website on May 23 by Vitaliy Kapustyan, and so far it has already garnered over 25,000 signatures – the number required for a mandatory response from the head of state

The author of the petition demands the introduction of a comprehensive examination for obtaining citizenship in Ukraine. It should consist of a test on the Ukrainian language, the history of Ukraine, knowledge of the Constitution, and the national anthem.

It notes that the exam does not exempt candidates for citizenship from providing other necessary documents, but that the test should be an integral part of the process of acquiring citizenship.

“The Armed Forces of Ukraine, volunteers, and all concerned Ukrainians are doing everything possible to preserve the integrity of Ukraine,” the author of the petition stated in the explanatory note.

“Being Ukrainian is a privilege and at the same time a responsibility. In addition to the set of documents, candidates must show their respect and genuine interest in acquiring Ukrainian citizenship.”

In response to the petition, President Zelenskyy noted that one of the requirements for obtaining Ukrainian citizenship by foreigners is the level of command of the state language. This is determined by the National Commission on the Standards of the State Language, which sets the appropriate test.

At the same time, the requirements for obtaining citizenship do not include passing tests on the history of Ukraine and Ukrainian legislation.

“The issue of introducing a mandatory exam for acquiring Ukrainian citizenship will require legislative regulation,” the president said.

He explained that the government of Ukraine ensures the implementation of policy in the spheres of education and science, the comprehensive development and functioning of the state language in all spheres of public life throughout the territory of Ukraine, the implementation of state legal policy, and regulates migration processes.

“That’s why I ask Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal to look comprehensively into the issues raised in the electronic petition,” Zelenskyy said.

“The author of the electronic petition will be informed about the results of consideration of the issues raised.”

As scandal erupted in Ukraine on June 3, after adviser to the Minister of Internal Affairs Anton Gerashchenko announced that Russian journalist Aleksandr Nevzorov and his wife Lidia had received Ukrainian citizenship.

Public opinion was divided, with some criticizing the granting of citizenship. There are no other recent decrees on the granting of Ukrainian citizenship on the website of the President of Ukraine.

It is also not known whether Nevzorov took a test on the level of his proficiency in Ukrainian.

Source: Zelenskyy responds to petition demanding mandatory test for obtaining Ukrainian citizenship

Russia: Rules Related to Russian Citizenship for Ukrainian Citizens Updated

Citizenship policy as part of military strategy:

The Russian government updated the rules related to the Presidential Order that simplified the procedure for Ukrainian citizens seeking Russian citizenship. Now, children, spouses and parents of Ukrainian citizens are eligible for the relaxed process (previously only main applicants were eligible). Additionally, applicants now only need to show a migration card (or any other document confirming that the foreign citizen crossed the Russian border legally), whereas previously they had to prove residence in Russia, proof of income in Russia and knowledge of the Russian language. Lastly, foreign citizens without an address registered in Russia can file documents in any region where they reside in Russia.

Source: Russia: Rules Related to Russian Citizenship for Ukrainian Citizens Updated

Legally Becoming a Ukrainian Citizen Now “Even More Difficult” – KyivPost – Ukraine’s Global Voice

More on the proposed changes:

Ukraine is one of only about 26 nations that does not allow dual citizenship. In recent times, including immediately before the February invasion, there were calls to change the citizenship laws to reflect the modern reality of what citizenship could mean in Ukraine.

Proponents argued that some foreigners, by merit, deserved citizenship: Such as foreigners who came to Ukraine and volunteered in the Ukrainian Armed Forces, deserved the right of obtaining Ukrainian citizenship without relinquishing their other passport. Other arguments were more pragmatic: millions of Ukrainians live outside of Ukraine, many send money home which contributes to the roughly 10% of pre-war GDP of Ukraine, and have obtained foreign passports which should not deprive them of their right to being Ukrainian.

Likewise, arguments were made that the current citizenship laws put Ukrainians living under occupation, such as in the Donbas, in legal limbo if they have chosen, or been forced, to receive a “DNR” or “LNR” passports. The hundreds of thousands, or perhaps millions, of Ukrainians in Crimea may have less appetite for returning home to Ukraine if they felt that they would be discriminated against for having received Russian passports – said some.

Earlier this week, President Vladimir Zelenski tasked Prime Minister Denis Shmygal with investigating how best an exam of the Ukrainian language could be introduced for those seeking to obtain Ukrainian citizenship. The President’s instructions came following a public petition that had been signed by over 25,000 Ukrainian citizens.

What will happen next with the legislation is unclear, but given the strongly patriotic public sentiment now in Ukraine, it is likely that the language exam will be introduced in the near future.

Source: Legally Becoming a Ukrainian Citizen Now “Even More Difficult” – KyivPost – Ukraine’s Global Voice

Boulet promet de la francisation pour les Ukrainiens dès cet été

Catching up:

Les Ukrainiens et autres immigrants en attente pourront commencer la francisation à temps complet dès cet été, moins d’un mois après en avoir fait la demande. Le ministre de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration, Jean Boulet, s’y est personnellement engagé lors d’une entrevue accordée au Devoir mercredi.

« Il y aura peut-être des cas qui vont [nous] échapper, mais notre objectif, c’est de faire le plus rapidement possible. Cet été, oui, il y a des possibilités de commencer des sessions [de francisation] à temps complet. » En date du 17 juin, 981 personnes, dont 137 nées en Ukraine, étaient sur une liste d’attente pour s’inscrire à des cours, et le délai moyen d’attente cumulé était de 22 jours, un délai dont Jean Boulet se dit « particulièrement fier ».

Vendredi dernier, Le Devoir avait révélé les difficultés de certains Ukrainiens à avoir accès cet été à la francisation à temps complet, et même à temps partiel, alors que dans certaines régions, plusieurs organismes mandataires du ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration (MIFI) n’ouvraient pas de cours, faute d’enseignants ou d’un nombre suffisant d’inscriptions. Certains organismes faisaient même relâche pendant l’été.

« Moi, je n’accepterais pas [ça]. Si je le sais, je vais m’assurer de remédier à la situation. S’ils sont quatre et qu’ils veulent débuter, je vais m’assurer qu’ils débutent, peu importe le moyen, que ce soit en ligne avec accompagnement, que ce soit avec des personnes d’autres régions », a insisté Jean Boulet. Les cours en ligne ne sont toutefois pas offerts pour les débutants, a-t-il convenu.

Commencer à temps partiel

Au calendrier du MIFI, une seule session à temps complet est prévue l’été, soit du 25 mai au 3 août. Si les groupes n’ont plus de place, les personnes immigrantes peuvent toutefois commencer la francisation à temps partiel — la prochaine session débute le 11 juillet — avant d’intégrer un cours à temps complet plus tard. « Les mandataires du MIFI doivent orienter la clientèle vers d’autres organismes et vers les centres de services scolaires si leurs groupes sont complets afin de ne pas créer de liste d’attente et des délais pour la clientèle », lit-on dans un document d’information transmis au Devoir.

Dans sa déclaration de services à la clientèle, le MIFI s’engage à offrir un cours à « temps complet » dans un délai de 50 jours pour plus de 80 % des personnes en faisant la demande. Cette cible est respectée, assure le ministre, puisque 83,2 % des élèves ayant commencé un cours entre le 1er avril et 13 juin l’ont fait dans un délai de 50 jours. Toutefois, cette information sur les listes d’attente et les délais n’est pas disponible pour les cours à temps partiel, les inscriptions étant gérées directement par les organismes communautaires.

Le ministre Boulet ne nie pas non plus « le défi » que représente le recrutement du personnel enseignant, notamment pour les cours à temps partiel, où une hausse de la clientèle a été remarquée. « Mais je me suis assuré qu’on fasse de la formation continue pour répondre à la demande, qui est croissante. C’est pour ça qu’on est capable de respecter le délai moyen de 22 jours. »

Un manque d’information

Plusieurs Ukrainiens et les Québécois qui les hébergent ou leur donnent un coup de main ont dit avoir du mal à obtenir de l’information sur l’offre de cours. Le ministre dit comprendre la situation. « C’est souvent un manque d’information. C’est sûr que c’est important pour nous de faire une nouvelle offensive publicitaire et de dire quels sont nos services en francisation », a reconnu M. Boulet.

Il invite d’ailleurs les immigrants à s’informer auprès d’Accompagnement Québec, un service d’orientation gratuit et personnalisé présent en région. La semaine dernière, le ministre Boulet a également annoncé le début des travaux menant à la création dans un an de Francisation Québec, un guichet unique dont les premières tentatives d’implantation remontent à 2005 et qu’aucun gouvernement n’a réussi à livrer jusqu’ici, faute d’entente entre les divers ministères offrant de la francisation.

Pour pouvoir s’inscrire à un cours, le MIFI exige, entre autres, une pièce qui prouve le statut d’immigration, comme le visa de séjour temporaire (AVUCU) ou le permis de travail. Seul ce dernier peut donner accès à l’allocation de participation de 200 $ et au remboursement des frais de transport et de garde des enfants. Le visa de visiteur, sans le permis de travail, ne le permet pas.

Le ministre dit cependant avoir agi en permettant, dans l’intervalle, l’accès à des cours gratuits à temps complet ou à temps partiel aux Ukrainiens qui n’auraient pas encore de permis de travail. « Dès que les Ukrainiens arrivent, ils bénéficient de l’ensemble des services, notamment de francisation », a-t-il assuré. Si un immigrant bénéficie d’une aide financière de dernier recours (aide sociale) comme c’est souvent le cas quand on est demandeur d’asile, il peut aussi avoir accès à la francisation et au remboursement des frais de garde et de transport.

« J’ai des directions régionales et près de 200 personnes réparties dans tout le territoire du Québec, et le message est le même. […] C’est sûr qu’il y [en] a qui ne sont peut-être pas totalement informés, mais les droits sont là, il faut qu’ils soient respectés, qu’il y ait une saine communication et qu’on ne soit pas éparpillés », a dit le ministre.

Jean Boulet a dit « vouloir tout faire » pour soutenir les nouveaux arrivants ukrainiens. « C’est sûr qu’il y aura peut-être un cas isolé où tu vas tomber sur des personnes dans une ville X, Y ou Z au Québec, qui n’auront pas eu totalement satisfaction à leur demande. Et si ce n’est pas du caprice, moi, je vais m’assurer qu’il y ait un retour d’ascenseur. »

Source: Boulet promet de la francisation pour les Ukrainiens dès cet été

Feds announce one-time $3,000 payment for Ukrainians taking refuge in Canada

Yet another example of the preferential treatment for those fleeing the war in Ukraine:

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said Thursday Ukrainians who have fled their war-torn country for Canada can now apply for a cash payment — money the government says will help these displaced people settle into their new home.

Ukrainians who are in Canada on valid work, study or temporary resident permits under the Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel (CUAET) regime are eligible for a one-time payment — $3,000 for every adult and $1,500 for every child 17 years and under.

The government launched a new portal today to process applications for this transitional financial assistance.

Source: Feds announce one-time $3,000 payment for Ukrainians taking refuge in Canada

The Silence of the Right on Ukrainian Refugees

Of note (not unique to USA as contrasting Canada’s previous firm policies in terms of access to work permits, healthcare and settlement services to Ukrainian temporary residents under the Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel program compared to Afghans and others illustrates:

Last summer, anti-immigration advocates mobilized in opposition to the resettlement of tens of thousands of Afghan refugees in the United States. “It threatens the national security of the United States,” wroteStephen Miller, the former top Donald Trump adviser. Miller charged in another tweet that President Joe Biden had “cruelly betrayed his oath of office” by expediting the entry of Afghans fleeing the Taliban without, Miller said, proper vetting. A prominent immigration-restrictionist group issued a report warning of fraud and abuse in the nation’s refugee programs, and immigration hard-liners flooded conservative airwaves throughout the fall to denounce the administration’s plans.

Then came another refugee crisis, this time in Ukraine. In March, Biden said the U.S. would admit up to 100,000 of the millions of Ukrainians who had left their country after the Russian invasion. The announcement was sure to provoke the outrage of the nation’s most ardent immigration foes, whose cries about an influx of refugees from a war-stricken region had barely faded from the news.

Except it didn’t.

Anti-immigration advocates have been far quieter about the Biden administration’s policy toward Ukrainian refugees than they were about its stance toward Afghan refugees. What’s more, the criticism they have leveled has had almost nothing to do with concerns about vetting or national security. Miller, for example, tweeted dozens of dire warnings about Afghan refugees during the summer and fall of 2021. He has also tweeted frequently about Ukraine since the crisis escalated at the beginning of this year, but not a single time about Biden’s plan to accept 100,000 refugees. (Through a spokesperson, he declined an interview request.)

To the groups who resettle refugees in the U.S., the divergent responses from the political right are a stark but familiar example of the long-standing bias against immigrants from poor or predominantly Muslim countries in favor of those from Europe, who are predominantly white. Those attitudes are also reflected in—and might contribute to—public opinion about America’s refugee policy. In a poll conducted last month for The Atlantic by Leger, 58 percent of respondents supported the U.S. accepting refugees from Ukraine, while just 46 percent backed admitting those from Afghanistan. Asked whether the U.S. should admit more refugees from one country than the other, 23 percent of respondents said the U.S. should take more people from Ukraine, while just 4 percent said the U.S. should accept more from Afghanistan, despite America’s two-decade involvement in the war there. Gallup found even broader support for admitting Ukrainian refugees, the highest for any refugee group it has polled about since 1939.

“Americans get a certain amount of compassion fatigue for certain parts of the world that are chronically in turmoil, and no American alive today can ever remember a time of peace in the Middle East,” Dan Stein, the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that seeks a reduction in overall immigration to the U.S., told me. “It’s also true that Ukraine has not been viewed routinely as a source of refugees, of political conflict, at least not in the modern world.”

Senior officials with refugee-resettlement groups told me that they haven’t put much stock into the reaction of immigration hard-liners, because Republican governors and leaders in Congress have remained broadly supportive of accepting Afghan refugees. But they have sharply criticized the Biden administration for what they say is unequal treatment of refugees from Afghanistan and Ukraine. “It certainly appears that Ukrainians are receiving special treatment,” Adam Bates, a policy counsel for the International Refugee Assistance Project, told me.

Under its Uniting With Ukraine program, the Biden administration is waiving all fees associated with applying for humanitarian parole. By contrast, IRAP says, the U.S. government charged more than 40,000 applicants from Afghanistan as much as $575 to seek similar protection last summer. The government is also scrapping requirements that Ukrainians submit evidence that they were specifically targeted by the Russian military or President Vladimir Putin, whereas Afghan applicants must provide proof of individualized, targeted violence against them by the Taliban.

The White House declined to comment. The administration has touted its evacuation of more than 82,000 Afghans to the U.S., including many allies who helped the U.S. military during its 20-year war. In both crises, the government has sought to route many applicants around the official refugee and special-immigrant visa programs because they are so backlogged. Officials have said that the humanitarian parole that the U.S. is offering to Ukrainians lasts for only two years, which Bates took as a suggestion that the government assumes many refugees will want to stay in the country only temporarily. I asked him what he thought was the real reason the Biden administration was expediting the process for Ukrainians in ways it did not for Afghans. “This is just speculating,” he cautioned in his reply. “But to me, I do not think that the influence of systemic racism and xenophobia in this country has been limited to just one party in the context of immigration.”

The politics of immigration have bedeviled Biden from his first days in office. Republicans have accused him of countenancing a veritable invasion of the southern border by migrants and asylum seekers, while progressives criticized his decision to keep in place some Trump-administration policies reviled by immigrant advocates. Biden’s critics on the right say his lax handling of the southern border has left the country stretched too thin to respond effectively to the humanitarian crises in Afghanistan and Ukraine. “The problem is that resettling refugees takes work and money and infrastructure, which has been overwhelmed by all the illegal aliens who were using asylum as a gambit to get past the Border Patrol,” Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the restrictionist Center for Immigration Studies, told me.

Many others, however, say the U.S. has both the moral obligation and the capacity to open its doors to those fleeing war and persecution.

Conservatives who have raised alarms about resettling Afghan refugees say the need to vet them is stronger because the American invasion created enemies who could try to sneak into the U.S. to exact revenge. They’ve also warned about the cultural differences between Afghanistan and the U.S., highlighting reports of child trafficking by male evacuees who claim young girls as their brides.

Krikorian has assailed the nation’s refugee policy across the board and told me the U.S. could do more good simply by sending money overseas to help resettle evacuees in countries closer to their homeland. But he had harsher words for the Biden administration’s pledge to admit refugees from Ukraine. “We clearly have more obligation to Afghans than we do to Ukrainians,” Krikorian said. At the same time, he said, individual Afghan refugees presented bigger security and cultural concerns than did Ukrainians. As an example, Krikorian referenced reports of widespread sexual abuse of young boys by members of the Afghan security forces made by members of the U.S. military during the war. “I wouldn’t say because of that, we don’t take Afghans, but we do take Ukrainians,” he said. “But in individual cases, in doing vetting and assessing whether it’s a good idea to bring somebody into the United States, we definitely should take that into consideration.”

Those reports and the stereotypes they feed may help explain why the public voices stronger support for refugees from Ukraine than from Afghanistan, and, on some level, why the government has treated them differently. But to those who work on behalf of refugees, they are beside the point. “Of course, we need to vet immigrants who are coming into the U.S. to make sure that they are not a threat to the American public. But we need to do that consistently,” Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, the president of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, told me. “Both populations have strong rationales for seeking refuge here in the U.S. We shouldn’t pit one population against the other.”

Source: The Silence of the Right on Ukrainian Refugees

Extend special immigration measures to other crises: House of Commons committee

Of note:
Canada’s treatment of Ukrainians fleeing war has been distinctly different to those fleeing other humanitarian crises, the House of Commons immigration committee said Wednesday, and MPs want that to change.
The committee voted Tuesday to issue a public statement, urging the government to provide the same special immigration measures it extended to Ukrainians to refugees from other regions.The statement reads that “time is of the essence,” and said the committee calls on the immigration minister to ensure Canada’s response to humanitarian crises in other regions “are treated with the same vigor as Ukraine.

Canada has expedited immigration applications from Ukraine and created an extraordinary program to allow Ukrainian citizens and their families to come to Canada and work or study for three years while they decide their next steps.

The program does not apply to non-Ukrainians who fled the country.

Canada has received 112,000 applications from people fleeing Ukraine and has so far approved more than 26,500, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said at a press conference Wednesday.

The MPs on the committee say the measures should also be available to Afghans who are still in their Taliban-controlled home country, and refugees from other regions facing humanitarian crises such as Yemen, Myanmar and China.Fraser didn’t address the committee’s request in his press conference, but did say Canada remains “extremely committed” to helping people escape Afghanistan.

Canada has so far welcomed 10,025 Afghans since August 2021, when the Taliban took control of the country.

In a statement Wednesday, a spokesperson for Fraser said refugee resettlement efforts, including initiatives in Afghanistan and Syria, can take years to implement and must be accounted for in the government’s annual immigration-level targets tabled in Parliament.

Meanwhile, consultations with the Ukrainian community reveal many wish only to come to Canada temporarily and then return home when it is safe“We will continue to look at more ways that Canada can settle refugees, complementary to our resettlement efforts,” spokeswoman Aidan Strickland said in a statement. “Each situation is unique and should be considered as such to ensure that Canada is responding accordingly.”

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi applauded Canada’s actions to bring Ukrainians to a safe haven, but also reminded government officials of other refugee crises.

In February, before Russia’s violent invasion of Ukraine, the UN refugee agency counted about 84 million refugees and displaced people worldwide.

“Since then, that number has probably grown to well over 90 million. We must be in the region of 95 million now,” Grandi said at the press conference with Fraser.

Grandi was in Ottawa Wednesday to announce a new global task force, chaired by Canada, aimed at finding other ways to bring refugees to safe countries.

The initiative builds on a Canadian pilot program to allow skilled refugees to apply for permanent residency through economic channels. The idea is to bring additional refugees to the country, in addition to those welcomed through humanitarian processes.

The pilot removed some of the barriers that would traditionally have precluded refugees from applying for permanent residency in Canada through economic channels.

It was expanded late last year to accommodate 500 skilled refugees, and Fraser says he hopes to see even more welcomed under the program in the future.

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan says the idea behind the pilot program is great, but she has noted some issues with the execution. For example, the program is supposed to include a loan option to allow refugees to meet the economic requirements to support themselves when they come to Canada, but that loan is not yet available.

Source: Extend special immigration measures to other crises: House of Commons committee

And a good op-ed by Naomi Alboim and Karen Cohl:

It is hard to rationalize the strikingly different approaches the Canadian government has taken to two major refugee crises in Ukraine and Afghanistan.

There have been benefits offered to Ukrainians looking to escape the Russian invasion, but not to Afghans fleeing the Taliban’s takeover, including authorization for emergency travel to enter Canada on a temporary basis with open work permits for up to three years. In addition, the government has promised to develop a family-reunification sponsorship program for both immediate and extended-family members.

There have also been benefits offered to Afghans, but not to Ukrainians, such as special programs for arrival as refugees with permanent residence and entitlement to all associated supports and services.

Certainly, the specific context of a refugee crisis can necessitate unique policy responses. But a common framework should be in place to provide similar support for individuals in crisis, with differences in treatment only where demonstrably justified.

The Canadian government has said that the “temporary residence” approach is justified by the assumption that most Ukrainians will return home. The reality, however, is that many Ukrainian refugees who choose to come to Canada can be expected to stay. No one knows how long the war in Ukraine will last, what the outcome will be, how much destruction will occur and whether or when it will be possible for individuals to return. The large Ukrainian community in Canada provides an added incentive to stay.

Indeed, an example from the past may foreshadow future decisions of Ukrainians coming to Canada. In response to the crisis in Kosovo in 1999, Ottawa initiated emergency airlifts of Kosovars on the expectation that many would return home as soon as the situation abroad was resolved. They were provided with permanent residence to entitle them to supports and services while in Canada. Kosovars were also offered transportation to return home and funding to re-establish themselves there. Despite these incentives to return, and the absence of a significant Kosovar community in Canada, only 30 per cent did so.

It would therefore be well worth providing supports and services that meet the needs of new Ukrainian arrivals. Many people fleeing Ukraine are women with small children, so even with open work permits, they may not start work immediately, and many won’t be able to earn enough money to support the needs of the family. Support from the community will be invaluable in many cases, but it cannot be expected to carry the full load.

Although the federal government has announced that Ukrainians arriving as temporary residents will have access to national settlement services, they are not eligible for federal income support or interim health coverage normally provided to refugees, leaving it up to individual provinces to decide on access to health care, schools and income support.

Afghans, for their part, need emergency travel authorization and reunification of extended-family members. Such measures would help to compensate for the fact that the implementation of the two special programs for Afghan refugees has been slow and rife with problems, and that private-sponsorship applications remain blocked.

Many Afghans are at greatly increased risk from having helped Canada in Afghanistan, and many have fled to neighbouring countries that don’t want them and are unable or unwilling to provide support. Ukrainians are in a horrendous situation, but they are at least being welcomed by EU countries who want and are able to help them. Some Afghans were airlifted to Ukraine from Afghanistan. Yet, even these Afghan refugees are not entitled to Canada’s new policies, which are available only to Ukrainian nationals.

We see no justification for Canada to offer such different treatment to two groups coming to our country at around the same time. Some observers have already begun to wonder if the policy differences have been influenced by race, religion or political benefit, and the lack of limits to the number of Ukrainians being allowed to enter Canada only fuels that argument. The perception is heightened by the fact that crises under way in Africa and elsewhere have gotten no special response at all.

Canada needs a common refugee framework that includes expedited entry and permanent residence, eligibility for supports and services and reunification of extended family members. Fair and equitable responses – for any refugee group – will help people in need of protection to make the transition to a successful life in Canada, no matter how long they choose to stay.

Source: Canada needs a unified approach for people fleeing Ukraine and Afghanistan

Expert says genocide is part of humanity, often result of propaganda

Unfortunately true, as recent history illustrates, whether Rwanda, China in Xinjiang, or as Russia is trying to do in Ukraine:

As the images of mass graves and murdered civilians in Ukraine flash across our screen, we think of those who commit genocide as pure evil.

But a man who has dedicated his life to fighting the bigotry that causes genocide and has discovered more than 3,100 execution sites and interviewed more than 7,400 victims around the world knows better.

“A human being has the capacity to heal people, to save people, but also the capacity to do the worst crimes,” Father Patrick Desbois said. “The first thing to accept is that genocide is inside humanity.”

Desbois, an author and founder of Yahad-In Unum (Together In One), a non-profit organization dedicated to discovering genocidal practices, spoke Monday night inside the Arizona Ballroom of the Memorial Union as part of Genocide Awareness Week, put on by Arizona State University’s School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies.

Desbois, who has received several awards for his work documenting the Holocaust, including the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest honor, said the perpetrators of genocide often are ordinary people who become embroiled in extraordinary situations.

He cited the case of Sabrina Harmon, a former U.S. Army reservist who was convicted of war crimes for her involvement in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal in Baghdad during the Iraq war.

“I always say to my students (at Georgetown University) that I’m sure she was a normal girl,” Desbois said. “I’m sure she was not a monster. Genocide is not in a hell place away from everything. It’s not true.”

Genocide often is the result, Desbois said, of propaganda feeding brainwashed minds. It was that way in Nazi Germany, in Angola in the 1970s, in Sudan and in Ukraine, where Russian president Vladimir Putin justified his country’s invasion with the propaganda that Ukraine is “openly pro-Nazi.”

“Hitler never missed people to do the job,” Desbois said. “There is no country where Hitler said, ‘Oh, nobody wants to do the job for killings. He found people to do everything, to dig the mass graves, to fill the mass graves, and even if Jews are not dead, they are buried alive, to take the belongings and sell them by auction, etc. etc.

“Because when you brainwash people, when you make propaganda to designate a target, you wake up the criminals. And you find clients for everything … Why are young soldiers coming from Russa doing awful things in public, under cameras from CNN? Why can Putin deny it every day?

“Propaganda is still strong. Propaganda has a capacity to whitewash the brain. And when people are brainwashed, any violence is possible … Everybody can be a victim. Everybody can be a killer. It depends where you are.”

Desbois said propaganda – and the resulting Neo-Nazi movement — is in part responsible for the rise in anti-Semitism around the world, including the United States. According to FBI statistics in 2020, Jews living in America are the target of 58% of all religiously motivated hate crimes.

Desbois said that when he posts something about the Holocaust on his Facebook page, “there’s always somebody who denies it, for any reason.”

“I will never forget the first time I went to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “I took a cab from the airport and had an Arab driver. I gave the address, and he brought me to the museum. After I went to pay, he told me, ‘You go to a place which shows the genocide that never existed.’”

That attitude, Desbois said, is why it’s important to teach high school and college students about the Holocaust. Already, he said, the Holocaust is not taught in schools in Mexico, Asia, China, India, Russia, most African countries and most Arab countries.

“I see year after year students (at Georgetown) know nothing about the Holocaust,” Desbois said. And the young generation, they will have very few chances to meet a (Holocaust) survivor. They will meet people who say, ‘Ha, it never existed. It’s a Jewish trick to make money to build Israel.’

“So, it’s a strong responsibility to teach, to train a generation of leaders and to do it so that they have the capacity to resist the huge movement of hate.”

Holocaust by Bullets,” a program and exhibit by Yahad-In Unum, can be seen in the Hayden Library through April 17. Members of the ASU community can access the free exhibit any time during library hours. Non-ASU community members can access the exhibit during docent-led tours from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Mondays.

Source: Expert says genocide is part of humanity, often result of propaganda