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Quebec’s plan to review status for asylum seekers working in care homes was questioned by Advocates.

Posted in Canada Provinces, Featured

Published on May 27, 2020 with No Comments

In a seeming reversal of an earlier stance, Legault said this week that asylum seekers who are working in the health-care system could be eligible for a path to citizenship as immigrants instead of through the federal refugee system.

Legault said Monday he had asked his immigration minister to review the cases “one by one,” to see if they qualify as immigrants.

“It’s a way of telling them, ‘Thank you,’” Legault said.

Advocates estimate hundreds of newcomers are recruited to work in long-term care homes due to an abundance of jobs and a relatively short training period.

Last weekend, a protest was held in front of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Montreal office in order to pressure the Quebec and federal governments to grant residence to those working in essential services during the pandemic, where they often face low pay and exposure to COVID-19.

While Legault’s announcement is a seeming victory, advocates say it’s too early to celebrate.

Frantz Andre, the spokesperson for a group representing people without immigration status, says the feeling among asylum seekers he’s spoken to has been “more upset than happy.”

While the situations are not identical, he said there have been special immigration programs in the past that have allowed groups to obtain permanent status, including those for Haitians after the 2010 earthquake and for Algerians in the 1990s.

“For exceptional circumstances we need to take exceptional measures, and recognition of permanent residence for humanitarian considerations in a case like this would be an appropriate measure in my opinion,” Handfield said in a phone interview.

In an email, a spokesperson for Quebec Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette said the government was still evaluating its options.

“The Government of Quebec will have to discuss the various options under study with the federal government, which is responsible for the process of regularizing the status of asylum seekers,” Marie-Luce Garant said.

This week’s statement was a reversal for Legault, who had previously expressed concerns that offering residency could be seen as an encouragement for others to cross the border irregularly.

On Monday, he said that while he doesn’t want to send a message that anyone who finds a job will be accepted, there is a desperate need for manpower in long-term care homes.

Janet Dench, the executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said she believes the change of tone comes as the pandemic has helped dispel misconceptions that asylum seekers are a burden on society.

“Now a few years later, we’re finding we desperately need them, and they’re helping on the front lines of this crisis, and where would we be without them?” she said.

Dench believes the time is right for the Canadian government to develop a program to allow all asylum seekers a straightforward path to permanent residency — not just Quebec health workers.

 

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