Canada a bright light in a horrible year for refugee resettlement: UN refugee agency

 

Of note:

The year 2020 will go down as the worst for refugee resettlement in recent history, says the UN refugee agency’s Canadian representative.

With nearly 168 countries implementing border and travel restrictions, millions of displaced people around the globe were stuck, unable to either return to their home countries or move to others.

Canada, however, was one of only a few that did listen to urgent pleas from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said Rema Jamous Imseis, the UNHCR’s Canadian representative.

Even at the height of the pandemic, when most countries were looking entirely inward, Canada did accept emergency cases and as travel has resumed continues to take in more, she told The Canadian Press in an interview.

“It hasn’t, unfortunately, been at the levels that we had planned for prior to the pandemic, but it still is offering that critical lifeline to people who desperately need it,” she said.

“And we hope that next year actually is going to bring us a very different context and an ability not only to meet those targets, but to perhaps even exceed them.”

Canada had planned to resettle around 30,000 refugees in 2020.

By the end of September, just under 6,000 had arrived, and a spokesman for Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said the end-of-year figure will be closer to 7,000.

The target for resettlement next year is 35,000, but how realistic that goal is considering the unknowns around the end of the pandemic is unclear.

Mendicino’s spokesman said in an email that the entire resettlement “ecosystem” continues to operate at a reduced capacity, but is slowly spooling back up.

“While our operations have been affected, we’ve come a long way since the onset of the pandemic and are now processing nearly six times as many refugee cases as in a similar period last year,” Alexander Cohen said in an email.

The border closures weren’t the only challenge this year for refugees, said Jamous Imseis.

Many of the world’s displaced people were just scraping by economically before the pandemic hit, but their sources of income completely dried up, she said.

“The ability to sustain themselves and their families has been wiped out,” she said.

“So you saw entire populations going from vulnerable, but with the ability to sustain themselves overnight to becoming really vulnerable.”

There’s also been a massive blow to the ability of children to be in school. A pivot to online learning possible in some developed nations just isn’t applicable elsewhere, she said.

Some studies suggest more than half of refugee girls may never go back to post-secondary education after the pandemic, she said.

“They haven’t been at school this whole time, and they may never go back because life circumstances have changed so dramatically,” she said.

Monday is the UNHCR’s 70th anniversary. It was created to help displaced Europeans after the Second World War and originally was only supposed to exist for a few years.

“But sadly, we’re still here and it signals the failure of the international community to really address long-standing issues, and drivers of displacement globally,” said Jamous Imseis.

“We look forward to the day when our services are no longer needed.”

Source: Canada a bright light in a horrible year for refugee resettlement: UN refugee agency

Immigration levels plan: Reactions

Have been following the various reactions to date regarding the government’s (overly) ambitious targets for the next three years. Relatively few op-eds and commentary, possibly due to the focus on COVID and the US presidential election which are taking up most of the oxygen.

And much of the commentary focusses overly on the administrative issues, not the more substantive issues related to economic integration of immigrants during an economic recession, one that is likely to linger for a few years.

Have grouped these by constituency:

Business-oriented

The plan was welcomed by the business sector.

“There is widespread agreement across party lines that immigration is essential to long-term economic growth,” said Goldy Hyder, president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada, which represents some of the country’s largest businesses.

“Newcomers bring energy, skills, new ideas and entrepreneurial spirit. They start companies, fill skill shortages, buy houses and pay taxes, … The minister’s plan will allow Canada to make up lost ground as the pandemic eases. It will inject new dynamism into our economy.”

The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters even went one step further, saying Ottawa’s objectives were too modest and will not allow the country to catch up quickly enough over the coming months to compensate for the reduced number of immigrant admissions this year.

“Manufacturers are increasingly using immigration to supplement their workforce but there are not enough immigrants to meet the demand,” said Dennis Danby, its president and CEO, who represents 2,500 leading manufacturers in the country.

“If manufacturing is to be at the core of the economic recovery following the COVID-19 crisis, we must do more in prioritizing immigration from the economic stream.” (Toronto Star)

As Canada’s leading voice on smart population growth, Century Initiative continues to advocate not just for increasing our population, but for policies to support that growth through investments in education and in the national and urban infrastructure that will allow our communities to grow in a sustainable manner. We also need to prioritize supporting parents with a national childcare strategy, and our children with early education programs.

Now is the right time to invest in growing our population. Environics Institute’s recent Focus Canada survey shows that a record two-thirds (66%) of Canadians reject the idea that immigration levels are too high, and that Canadians recognize the critical contribution immigrants make to our economy and our social fabric. We have a tremendous opportunity before us and welcome the opportunity to continue working with gover(nment to seize it in the interest of future generations of Canadians. (Century Initiative)

Opposition critics

Opposition MPs took aim at the way the government has handled immigration throughout the pandemic and questioned how the new targets would be achieved.

Conservative immigration critic Raquel Dancho said the government is announcing new levels without a plan for how they will be safely implemented.

Jenny Kwan, immigration critic for the NDP, said she believes the numbers are “a bit of a hoax” because the backlog to process applications is so great that the targets will be hard to meet.

Christine Normandin, the Bloc Québécois immigration critic, said in French that Ottawa is taking the opposite approach to the Quebec system. She said the province takes only as many immigrants as it can process in one year, while Ottawa sets goals without taking into account its capacity to do the paperwork. (Globe)

That lower-end target is actually below the low end of the number of immigrants, pre-pandemic, the Liberals had planned to admit in 2021, pointed out NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan. 

“The Liberals demonstrate a lack of conviction in their targets and left the door wide open for immigration levels to decrease,” she said in a statement.

It’s also not clear how unused room is being carried over. 

For example: the Liberals had planned to admit 49,000 refugees this year. Next year, according to Friday’s plan, they are aiming for 59,500. 

While that looks like an increase of 10,000, the number of refugees who have actually arrived in the first eight months of this year was down nearly 60 per cent from 2019 arrivals. 

So it’s possible that the 2021 figures merely incorporate the shortfall from this year, as opposed to being an overall increase. Mendicino wasn’t clear when asked about that issue Friday.  (Canadian Press)

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan said the government must not overlook the compassionate aspects of the immigration system, such as removing travel restrictions for asylum seekers and ensuring permanent residence status for migrant workers in recognition of their contributions during the pandemic.

“The immigration department’s processing abilities is still spotty at best and serious investment in staffing, far beyond what we’ve seen so far, is needed,” said Kwan.

“Without these investments, applicants are to expect significant increases in processing times for years to come, which were already long before the pandemic.” (Toronto Star)

Tweets from CPC critic Dancho:

The Liberals have failed to layout a plan to  bring in newcomers to Canada safely. No widespread access to rapid tests and the 14 day quarantine is not a financial option for many people. #cdnpoli https://twitter.com/RaquelDancho/status/1322270115921055746?s=20

They have no plan to better resource immigration department to fulfil the levels promised.  Liberals are simply adding to their massive, years-long immigration backlogs that fail to provide potential newcomers with certainty, dignity or respect. #cdnpoli https://twitter.com/RaquelDancho/status/1322270117384851456?s=20

The ministers announcement did not acknowledge the economic devastation caused by COVID-19 or the hundreds of thousands of Canadians facing unemployment since the pandemic hit and how these new ambitious immigration numbers will impact them. #cdnpoli https://twitter.com/RaquelDancho/status/1322270118290903040?s=20

International organizations

Either way, that Canada even continues to open its arms is welcome, said Rema Jamous Imseis, the UN refugee agency’s Canadian representative. 

“In an era of travel restrictions and closed borders, refugees continue to be welcomed by Canadians,” she said in a statement.

“The significance of this lifeline and the deep generosity of Canadians cannot be overstated.” (Canadian Press)

Academics

While experts had expected Ottawa to stay the course with its immigration goals — given the government had publicly stated immigration would be key to restarting the post-COVID-19 economy, they were surprised the Liberals would decide to take it up a notch.

Although critics have raised concerns about high immigration given that the country’s jobless rate hovered at nine per cent in September — after peaking at 13.4 per cent in May — from 5.6 per cent before the pandemic, some experts say the government is on the right track.

“The timing for expanding the program now is good. But I’m surprised how high the targets are they have set. I don’t know how realistic it is from a bureaucratic administrative perspective,” said Carleton University economist Chris Worswick, who specializes in the economics of immigration.

“I commend the government for thinking about immigration again. I was worried that it wouldn’t happen. I wonder if they’re being too ambitious. I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll end up at a good place.” (Toronto Star)

Immigration lawyers and advocates

Immigration and refugee experts welcomed the move to grant permanent residency to those already in the country.

“I’ve always thought, even before COVID, that it makes a lot more sense to target people who are already educated here, or have work experience here, or at least have lived here. … These are people who are already demonstrating their genuine interest in Canada,” immigration lawyer Chantal Desloges said.

Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said her organization has urged the government to give permanent residency to those in Canada.

“What we need to see is that realization actually reflected in actual operations, actual policies, because at this point, the way the Immigration Department is working is running in completely the opposite direction,” she said. (Globe)

We need #StatusforAll and Fairness.
Today’s Canada’s Immigration Plan does neither. pic.twitter.com/xhsJtrZBtj— Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (@MWACCanada) October 30, 2020

Contrary to what the government is saying, there is NO INCREASE in IMMIGRATION LEVELS. Instead, there was a 150,000 shortfall in immigrants in 2020, and the government is trying to catch up for it by increasing 50,000 each year for the next three years. But as COVID-19 continues, these promises are unlikely to be kept.+

The overall proportion of new immigrants remain the same, with the primary focus on “high waged” immigrants. However, to qualify for these immigration programs, migrants must show 12-24 months of high-waged work. With COVID-19-related job losses disproportionately impacting racialized people, many migrants don’t have access to these jobs and won’t qualify. No plan has been announced to ensure full and permanent immigration status for all migrant and undocumented people right now.+ Many migrants — including care workers and former international students — were not able to complete requirements for permanent residency in 2020 due to COVID-19. However, there is no meaningful increase in numbers on fixing of rules for these migrants in today’s announcement. (Migrant Workers Alliance)

On the right

Recent polls have shown that Canadians are weary about increasing immigration levels in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. 

A poll commissioned by True North found that an overwhelming 76% of Canadians strongly agreed with the idea of a temporary pause until a coronavirus vaccine is developed and unemployment drops to pre-coronavirus levels. Note: Polling firm unknown and thus is not credible

The poll results show a surprising consensus among political parties as well with 67% of Liberals wanting to impose a temporary pause, 66% of NDP voters and 89% of Conservatives. 

“Given today’s global circumstances of a public health pandemic and severe economic crisis, now is the perfect opportunity to revert back to our successful historic immigration model, listen to the majority of Canadians, and take another pause,” True North’s founder Candice Malcolm wrote when the poll was released. 

“It’s time for our leaders to listen to the people and do what’s best for our country.” (“True” North)

While the government touted the need for migrants to strengthen the economy, the unemployment rate in Canada, the unemployment rate currently stands at 9%, from an all-time high of 14% in May. Over 8 million Canadians applied for emergency COVID relief benefits in the form of the CERB. Canada’s unemployment rate was around 5% prior the pandemic. (Rebel Media)

Links:

https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2020/10/30/canada-raises-immigration-targets-to-record-level-eyeing-covid-19-recovery.html

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-canada-aims-to-accept-far-more-immigrants-in-next-three-years/

https://www.nationalnewswatch.com/2020/10/30/open-arms-in-an-era-of-closed-borders-pandemic-era-immigration-plan-to-be-released/

https://www.centuryinitiative.ca/2020/10/30/statement-by-century-initiative-in-response-to-todays-announcement-on-canadas-new-immigration-levels-plan/

https://www.rebelnews.com/canada_to_increase_immigration_targets_after_covid_disruption

https://www.facebook.com/notes/migrant-workers-alliance-for-change/immigration-announcement-fails-to-ensure-fairness-status-for-all/10101179406532842/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nepal is among 25 countries that deny women right to pass on citizenship to children independently

Good reference list:

In Nepal while there is a debate ongoing over whether to grant the women the right to confer citizenship to their children without any exception and limitation. South Asia Check has examined the citizenship laws and gender equality in the global context.

According to a survey report on Gender Equality, Nationality Laws and Stateless 2018 prepared by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), equality between men and women relating to conferral of nationality upon children has not yet been attained in 25 countries. The majority of these states are in the Middle East and North Africa (twelve countries) and Sub Saharan Africa (six countries). In Asia and the Pacific there are five countries and in the Americas two countries that do not grant mothers equal rights as fathers to confer their nationality on their children. It is important to note that an additional group of states grants equality to men and women with regard to the nationality of children but not with regard to acquisition, change or retention of nationality upon change in civil status.

The classification of countries that limits women to confer nationality to their children

The table below uses a color scheme to divide the laws of the 25 countries into three categories. The laws of the first group of countries (red) have nationality laws which do not allow mothers to confer their nationality on their children with no, or very limited exceptions. These laws create the greatest risk of statelessness. The laws of the second group of countries (orange) have made some exceptions for mothers to confer nationality if the father is unknown or stateless. The laws of the third group of countries (yellow) also limit the conferral of nationality by women but additional guarantees ensure that statelessness will only arise in very few circumstances.

Table: Courtesy of UNHCR report

The law in Qatar doesn’t allow mothers to confer nationality on their children, without exception. According to the law of Kuwait, if a Kuwaiti mother has a child with a father who is unknown or whose paternity has not been established, the individual concerned may apply for Kuwaiti citizenship at majority. In such cases, nationality is granted by decree based on the discretionary recommendation of the Minister of Interior. However, this is an extraordinary measure that occurs rarely in practice.

The nationality law of Lebanon also allows only Lebanese fathers to confer their nationality on their children in all circumstances. Women can only confer their citizenship if the child is born out of marriage and recognized while a minor by the Lebanese mother.

The nationality laws of Jordan, Libya, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates do not allow women nationals married to foreign nationals to pass their nationality to their children. However, they do permit women nationals to confer their nationality on their children in certain circumstances such as where fathers are unknown, stateless, of unknown nationality or do not establish filiation.

In Iraq, although the Iraqi Constitution of 2005 establishes gender equality by providing that nationality is acquired by descent from either men or women, Iraq’s 2006 nationality law limits the ability of Iraqi women to confer nationality on children born outside the country. For such births, the child of an Iraqi mother may apply for Iraqi nationality within one year of reaching majority, providing that the child’s father is unknown or stateless and the child is residing in Iraq at the time of the application.

According to the nationality law of Syria, mothers can only confer nationality if the child was born in Syria and the father does not establish filiation in relation to the child. The law of Bahrain allows mothers to confer their nationality on their children born either in their home countries or abroad if the fathers are unknown or stateless. Under the law of Oman, mothers confer nationality on their children born either in their home countries or abroad if the fathers are unknown or are former Omani nationals.

In Mauritania, mothers can confer nationality on children when the father is unknown or stateless. Children born in Mauritania to Mauritanian mothers and foreign fathers, or to mothers who were born in Mauritania themselves, also acquire Mauritanian nationality. Children born abroad to Mauritanian mothers and foreign fathers can opt for Mauritanian nationality in the year before majority.

The laws of Somalia and Swaziland do not allow mothers to confer their citizenship on their children under the same conditions as fathers. Under the 1962 Somali Citizenship Law, only children of Somali fathers acquire Somali citizenship. Swaziland’s Constitution of 2005 stipulates that any child born inside or outside Swaziland prior to 2005 to at least one Swazi parent acquires Swazi citizenship by descent. However, children born after 2005 only acquire Swazi citizenship from their fathers, unless the child was born out of wedlock and has not been claimed by the father in accordance with customary law.

In Burundi, the 2000 Nationality Code does not allow mothers to transfer nationality to children except when maternal filiation is established when they are born out of wedlock to unknown fathers or if disowned by their fathers.

In Liberia, the Aliens and Nationality Law of 1973 allows children born in Liberia to acquire Liberian citizenship at birth. Children born abroad to Liberian mothers, however, are excluded from acquiring Liberian citizenship. In case of Togo, the 1978 nationality grants citizenship to children born in its territory who cannot claim the nationality of another state, it only allow mothers to confer their nationality on their children if the father is stateless or of unknown nationality.

In Sudan the amended law in 2005 allows a child born to a Sudanese mother to acquire Sudanese nationality by birth by following an application process.

In Brunei Darussalam and Iran, only fathers can confer their respective nationalities on their children in all circumstances.

In Kiribati, children born in the country to an i-Kiribati father or mother can acquire nationality of Kiribati; however, only children born abroad to i-Kiribati fathers, not mothers, acquire the nationality of Kiribati. In Malaysia, children born in the country to either Malaysian mothers or Malaysian fathers automatically acquire Malaysian nationality. But children born to Malaysian mothers outside of Malaysia may only acquire Malaysian citizenship at the discretion of the Federal Government through registration at an overseas Malaysian consulate or at the National Registration Department in Malaysia.

In Nepal, children born to Nepali fathers acquire Nepali citizenship in all circumstances. Children born in Nepal to Nepali mothers and foreign fathers can apply to acquire citizenship through naturalization, provided they have permanent domicile in Nepal and have not acquired the foreign citizenship of their fathers.

In The Bahamas, children born in the country to either a Bahamian father or mother acquire Bahamian nationality; however, only children born abroad to Bahamian fathers, not mothers, can acquire Bahamian nationality. The same applies in Barbados, where children born in Barbados to either Barbadian mothers or fathers acquire Barbadian nationality, but Barbadian mothers cannot confer nationality on their children born abroad, whereas Barbadian fathers can.

Source: Nepal is among 25 countries that deny women right to pass on citizenship to children independently

Did Saudi teen Rahaf Mohammed jump the queue with her speedy resettlement to Canada?

Good overview on the process followed:

Did Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun jump the queue over other refugees when Canada quickly opened its doors to the Saudi teen who was fleeing an allegedly abusive family?

Not according to Canadian immigration officials and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

While Rahaf’s plea for help on social media got her international headlines and drew the attention of the UNHCR to her plight, the emergency rescue effort was by no means unique — though the warm embrace by a foreign minister at the airport may be.

According to immigration officials, some 200 people are processed under Canada’s Urgent Protection Program each year, with about 50 resettled within the rapid timelines seen in Rahaf’s case. The 18-year-old arrived in Toronto Saturday — accompanied by Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland — after a tumultuous week that began with Rahaf escaping from her family during a trip to Kuwait. Rahaf then flew to Bangkok, where she was detained by Thai authorities who prepared to deport her to Saudi Arabia, where she feared for her life.

“Canada has the flexibility to respond quickly to individual emergency situations for a small number of refugees,” said immigration department spokesperson Beatrice Fenelon. “These individuals are resettled on an expedited basis due to their particular circumstances.”

In a news conference in Toronto Tuesday, Rahaf, who has dropped her last name after she learned on social media that her family has disowned her, admitted she was “lucky.”

“I know that there are unlucky women who disappeared after trying to escape or who could not do anything to change their reality,” she told reporters.

People in need of protection cannot apply directly to the special Canadian program and requests must be made by referral organizations, such as the UNHCR.

Since Rahaf’s speedy resettlement to Canada — less than a week after she started a Twitter campaign while barricaded inside her hotel room — she has faced backlash not only from internet trolls criticizing her as a disgrace to her family and Islam but also from refugee supporters accusing her of being a queue jumper.

“A Syrian refugee from a war zone who lost everything is not welcome in the west. But a person from a golden palace in Saudi-Arabia who says ‘I am not a Muslim anymore’ is a hero and very welcome. Can someone explain this to me?” Arnoud van Doorn, a member of The Hague City Council in the Netherlands, asked on Twitter.

In Rahaf’s case, the UNHCR dispatched a team to her hotel room in Bangkok for an emergency resettlement assessment after learning from media reports that the teenager was going to be handed over to her family, who were en route to Thailand and planned to take her back to Saudi Arabia.

Among the 25.4 million refugees worldwide, less than 1 per cent end up being resettled, many of them after years in limbo.

“Emergency resettlement is extremely rare,” noted Jean-Nicolas Beuze, the UNHCR representative to Canada. “Based on agreed-upon criteria, we refer these cases to the 30 countries that offer resettlement programs. There are many situations. It could be for the lack of medical care or the fear of torture if someone is returned to the country of origin.”

At her hotel in Bangkok, Rahaf was given a formal interview where she was asked to provide the details and evidence to substantiate her claims of mental and physical abuse by her family. After she got her UNHCR refugee designation, she underwent a thorough security and criminal check, as well as a medical exam, before being admitted to Canada.

“Rahaf met those criteria and we referred her case to several countries. Canada was the fastest to respond. Rahaf can’t choose her destination. She didn’t jump any queue. It’s a different process with different criteria,” said Beuze. “It’s not a unique case, but it’s only unique because of all the media and social media attention.”

While some critics fear Rahaf’s case may set a precedent and open the floodgates for other Middle Eastern women to claim gender oppression, experts say resettlement is only available to those who make it outside their country of origin.

“The assumption is your country can protect you. You become a refugee because you don’t get the protection and other countries need to step in,” said Janet Dench of the Canadian Council for Refugees. “Due to the notion of sovereignty, you can’t be a refugee in your own country.”

While praising Canada’s quick response to Rahaf’s situation, Dench said government officials must not politicize the refugee resettlement process by only prioritizing cases of those “who have the ears of the Prime Minister or Immigration Minister and are the favourite of the month of the media.”

According to the UNHCR, 1.4 million refugees have been identified for resettlement in 2019, but only 80,000 spots are available, including 11,000 in Canada.

Source: Did Saudi teen Rahaf Mohammed jump the queue with her speedy resettlement to Canada?

Christie Blatchford has a nice column on her strong character and independence, somewhat spoiled by her last editorial comments on grief and trauma counsellors:

She is a psychologically sturdy, resourceful and strong-willed young woman, this Rahaf Mohammed, recent “urgent protection” case freshly arrived in Toronto from Saudi Arabia via Kuwait and Thailand.

“I want to be independent, travel, make my own decisions on education, a career or who and when I should marry,” she said Tuesday at a big press appearance at COSTi Immigrant Services in the city’s west end.

“I had no say in any of this,” Rahaf said. “Today, I can proudly say that I am capable of making all of those decisions.”

She spoke in Arabic, her words translated and read in English by her COSTI settlement worker, Saba Abbas.

But there is no doubt she wrote it, said COSTI executive director Mario Calla with a grin, acknowledging he has seen evidence of the ferocious independent spirit himself.

For instance, he said, inundated with media requests from across the globe, Rahaf was crystal clear that she would do three interviews (with the ABC Australia network, the CBC and Toronto Star) and that was it, because “ ‘I want to get on with my life,’” Calla said.

“We suggested a press conference,” he said and she agreed to write a statement.

“That statement was all her,” Calla said. “She’s been very clear.”

As she said in it, “I understand that everyone here and around the world wishes me well and would like to continue to hear about how I am doing, but I will not be conducting any more media interviews for the time being.

“I ask everyone to respect my wishes.

“I would like to start living a normal private life, just like any other young woman living in Canada. This starts with me getting help in my settlement process and of course, learning English!”

As a government-sponsored refugee, Rahaf is entitled to 12 months of support (worth almost as much as social assistance, Calla said, lest the amount fuel local resentment), and COSTI will help with English classes, getting her settled into temporary accommodation (first with a family, later on her own) and has hired security guards as protection.

In defying her family and leaving behind the repressive guardianship system of Saudi Arabia, which infantilizes women from cradle to grave and makes them dependent on male relatives (father, husband, brother, etc.) for every decision, the 18-year-old has potentially put herself in danger.

Any country brazen enough to arrange to murder one of its own, as Saudi officials have acknowledged doing to journalist Jamal Khashoggi in its consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, has a long and lethal reach.

As well, Rahaf has been vilified in the Arab world, with the Kingdom insisting the entire business is a family matter blown out of proportion. Amid all the love she has received on social media, inevitably for this new media world, there comes a backlash, and she also has received some threats. She has left Islam.

And Rahaf’s family has apparently denounced her in a tweet of its own; even discussing this was painful for her in the interviews she did.

“She finds it very difficult,” Calla said after her brief appearance before the cameras. “She does not want to talk about those things.” So she decided, he said, fine, she’d pull the Band-Aid off in one fell swoop: “’I’ll get it out there’” (in the interviews) and be done with it.

She arrived in Canada last Saturday after sneaking out from under her family’s grasp on the last day of their holiday in Kuwait, hopping a plane to Bangkok, and then, with her father and brother apparently enroute to retrieve her, barricading herself in an airport hotel room and launching a desperate Twitter campaign begging for help.

She had the savvy of her age group, to harness social media. It’s new, but refugees have long been innovative. As Calla said, “It’s a complex world. People do everything and anything to try to save themselves.” Some sneak over borders; some jump into little boats and try to cross perilous oceans; a few, and probably soon a few more, use social media.

For all her determination and resourcefulness, she’s also just a teenager. The first order of business, Calla said, after she arrived was to go to the mall.

Rahaf had been expecting to end up in Australia, where she was also welcomed, but the bureaucracy there was slower moving, and on the advice of the UNHCR, she landed in Canada instead, wearing just a little skirt. She needed winter clothes.

“And a phone package,” Calla said, smiling. “We did that on Saturday.”

In her new country, press-gangs of grief counsellors and soothers are brought into high schools and colleges at the first hint of trauma, discomfort, even disrespect. The cultural assumption here is that we are fragile beings. So, Calla was asked if Rahaf is receiving psychological support.

“She is not, right now,” he said. “We do have services at COSTI … We have not seen any signs of distress in that sense.” In the longer term, he said, “for any refugee, the big challenge is the loss — family and friends and a culture that was familiar to them.”

In that sense, one of the country’s newest arrivals is like a delicious throwback to an older and more self-reliant Canada.

Stay tough, darling.

Source: Christie Blatchford: Stow the trauma counsellors, this tough runaway is doing fine on her own

Canada’s immigration reputation: Charting the Tories’ commitment to taking in refugees

The cumulative effect of changes to refugee policy and operations (safe-third country provisions were aimed at reducing those claiming refugee status for economic reasons, not those fleeing for political reasons):

But while the immigration system has been massively streamlined for economic newcomers, Canada has simultaneously made it increasingly difficult for certain refugees. In fact, the massive system overhaul in 2012 is being blamed for the country’s inaction in addressing the Syrian crisis.

A centralized processing facility was established in Winnipeg to expedite applications for privately sponsored refugee claims. However, an internal report made public by an access to information request revealed that staffing shortages caused backlogs to reach “an unprecedented high.”

Authorities also listed 37 countries as being a “designated country of origin,” and enacted a different system for processing refugee claimants from those countries.

Enacted as part of an attempt to cut down on bogus claims, the 37 countries are considered to be free from persecution, and refugees from these “safe” countries are expedited and have no right of appeal.

However, the system also means a refugee from Syria applying to Canada from a temporary home in a “safe” country may see  the chance of acceptance plummet.

“They’ve just added enormously to the paperwork and the hurdles people have to go through,” said Dench.

And the evidence, say critics, is in the numbers. Canada received 35,775 refugees in 2005, just before the Conservative election victory. By 2014, the number was 23,286 — a drop of nearly one third.

Most critical to Syrian refugees was the 2012 provision that G5s — refugees who have been sponsored by five or more Canadians — would need to be officially certified as refugees by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

And with tens of thousands of Syrians streaming into Turkey and Jordan, only a lucky few have been able to undergo the interview and screening process needed to obtain such a certification.

….According to UNHCR, Canada does take in relatively high numbers of “resettled” refugees, having accepted 12,173 of them in 2013 — second only to the United States.

However, this number only refers to refugees who are being transferred from a asylum country to a permanent home.

When it comes to total refugees, UNHCR numbers show Canada ranks 41st globally in terms of per-capita refugees — trounced by countries such as Turkey and Jordan whose share of Syrian refugees equal double-digit proportions of their domestic population.

When gross domestic product and geographic size are ranked, Canada places 55th and 93rd, respectively.

Canada’s immigration reputation: Charting the Tories’ commitment to taking in refugees

UNHCR counting on Canada to increase commitment to Syrian refugees

Will Canada respond? Will Canada meet its existing commitment?:

“Canada is a very important country to the UNHCR not only for the support it gives to refugee programs but also for the leadership that it provides in terms of international standards of global protection,” De Angelis said.

“This is another occasion for countries who have a leading role in global refugee protection to really show their strength.

”The UNHCR is making a pitch at meetings in Geneva on Tuesday for countries to help resettle more than 100,000 refugees from the Syrian civil war over the next two years.

The plea follows formal requests that began in 2013 for direct help getting some of the most vulnerable people out of refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt.

That year, Canada agreed to take in 1,300 refugees.

Private sponsorship groups were allotted 1,100 spots and the government agreed to directly resettle the rest.

While the government’s promise to settle 200 people has been met and exceeded, only 163 people being sponsored by private groups have made it to Canada as of the middle of November.

UNHCR counting on Canada to increase commitment to Syrian refugees – The Globe and Mail.