Increased rejections point to secretive policy change at a time when immigration is at an all time low
Canada, July 13, 2021 – The Migrant Rights Network is sounding the alarm, releasing data today that shows that Humanitarian and Compassionate application rejections in Canada doubled from 35% in 2019 to nearly 70% in the first quarter of 2021. Humanitarian and Compassionate (H&C) applications are the only opportunity for permanent residence – and therefore equal rights and safety – for undocumented migrants inside Canada. The rejections increased without any announced change in policy, at the same time as immigration levels in Canada saw a historic downturn in 2020.
Speaking at a press conference this morning, Queen Gabriel, an elder care worker from the Caribbean living in Toronto whose H&C application was rejected in October 2020, called for urgent changes. “The immigration process is slowly choking the life out of us,” she said. “Many of us have died not being able to access simple health care during COVID-19 or even sick days for fear of unreasonable reprimand. Permanent residence should not be such a trying, nerve wrecking, daunting, undertaking for anyone. Landed status for all is necessary.”
Canada accepted 5,075 Humanitarian and Compassionate applications in 2019. In 2020, despite an increase in applications, only 3,735 applications were accepted. Immigration levels in Canada fell by almost half in 2020, due to COVID-19 related border closures. As a result, federal immigration policy has shifted the focus to accepting migrants already in the country.
“Right now, Canada needs immigrants and with COVID-19, the simplest first thing to do is regularize and give permanent residency to all migrants already in the country, including undocumented people. Instead, we see immigration officials arbitrarily doing the opposite,” added Syed Hussan, from the Migrant Rights Network Secretariat. “Permanent residence status is the only mechanism to ensure migrants have equal rights. By doubling rejections, Prime Minister Trudeau is doubling the potential for exploitation.”
Devine Cruz, came to Canada as a caregiver from Hong Kong with her employer, who brought her in as a tourist, saying that they would only be in Canada for a week. She was forced to stay until she became undocumented. Her application was rejected this year. Speaking today from Vancouver, Cruz said, “I felt I was being penalized for being poor because my rich employers who brought me here illegally can get in and out of Canada, while I had to hide from my community.”
Mamadou Batchily, 44 years old, father of two, had a work injury in 2018. He made a Humanitarian and Compassionate application but was denied in January 2021. He said, “I have been weakened by this painful process. I see now that Canada places no value on human life. My case shows the injustices faced by all migrants in Canada, and especially those who are injured while working in this country.”
Since the start of COVID-19, Canada has created two new programs to give access to permanent residency to migrants already in the country. But both the Health Care Workers permanent residence pathway and the Temporary Resident to Permanent Resident Pathway, largely exclude undocumented residents.
“The Humanitarian and Compassionate claim is an application of a last resort, for women fleeing gender violence, homeless people, and other undocumented families. It is a long process that takes three to five years, costs thousands of dollars, and comes down to a single decision maker, with no guaranteed avenue to legal appeal,” added immigration consultant Macdonald Scott from Carranza LLP. “No one knows how or why the decision was made to suddenly increase refusals, and that makes it hard to challenge. This has made an already arbitrary policy much worse, and with a very serious human cost.”
Migrants from Montreal, Toronto and other cities will be marching to the Prime Minister’s Office in Ottawa on July 25, 2021: www.MigrantRights.ca/MarchtoOttawa to call for full and permanent immigration status for all residents in the country, and for all those arriving in the future.
Humanitarian and Compassionate statistics from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (see complete numbers)
|2016||2017||2018||2019||2020||Jan – Mar 2021|
- * Acceptance rates = (Acceptance / (Accepted + Rejected)) and Rejection rates = (Rejected / (Accepted + Rejected)) as the Applied figure includes those that are withdrawn or incomplete.
- There are over half a million undocumented residents in Canada. These are primarily migrants who arrived on temporary permits (refugee, work or study permits) whose permits were not renewed because of exclusionary immigration laws.
- Most undocumented migrants have no path to stability except through the Humanitarian and Compassionate application process.
- Most undocumented migrants work, and are essential members of our communities.
- Canada saw a historic shortfall in immigration in 2020 due to COVID-19, with only 184,000 people granted permanent residency. As a result, Canada has set a target for 401,000 migrants for 2021. The federal government has already prioritized permanent resident status for residents in the country.
- Acceptance rates for Humanitarian and Compassionate applications were around 64% before 2020. That rate has drastically declined but without any public policy changes announced.
- Over 400 organizations have joined in to call on Prime Minister Trudeau to ensure full and permanent immigration status or all: www.StatusforAll.ca
For more information, or to receive a recording of the press conference, please contact:
Syed Hussan, Migrant Rights Network Secretariat