By Francesca Merlo
In the first half of 2018, nearly 26,000 migrants sought asylum in Canada. Nearly 11,000 of these were illegal or “irregular” border crossers, of which a vast majority entered Canada through Quebec.
Elana Wright, Advocacy and Research Officer of Development and Peace at Caritas Canada, spoke to Vatican News’ Timothée Dhellammes about Canadians’ openness to welcoming asylum seekers.
Biometrics: a compromise?
Last month Canada introduced a new rule: anyone entering the country with a Visitor’s Visa, work or study permit, or to seek permanent residence must have their fingerprints and photograph taken upon arrival.
When asked whether she is worried about this obligation for asylum seekers to provide these biometrics. Wright replies that, although this security measure is helpful to those citizens who are perhaps worried about the flux of immigrants who are entering Canada from persecution and war-torn and countries, any extra obstacle makes these refugee’s journeys even more difficult than they have already been.
She refers to it as an “administrative hurdle”, saying it hinders immediate necessities such as sending children to school and finding work.
A history of sponsorship
Wright spoke about the Canadian’s desire to welcome refugees, bringing up interventions from past migration crises. She talks about the Vietnamese “Boat-people” who were accepted on Canadian shores in the 1970s post-Vietnam War.
During this period the Canadians adopted a strategy, allowing churches, corporations and groups of five or more Canadian citizens to sponsor refugees directly. This allowed the amount of “boat-people” arriving in the country to be a decision based entirely on public support.
She also said 25,000 Syrian refugees arrived over the course of a year, lauding the incredible generosity and commitment portrayed by the Canadian people in order to help, support and welcome these refugees – even helping them economically for a year.
This private sponsorship model works extremely well, aiding the integration of refugees and their families into local communities, she said. A form of support which, according to Wright, is essential in their first year in the country.
Church encourages acceptance
Wright says the Church has shown incredible leadership, making itself well-known through its hard work and commitment in welcoming refugees.
Solidarity at a reminder of Canada’s history
Canada, Wright said, is a country built of indigenous people and immigrants and the vast majority of Canadians are in fact immigrants. She believes that they must therefore show solidarity to those currently seeking a home, as the number of refugees worldwide is rapidly increasing and that Canada could accept more people than they are currently.
From status to settlement
She finishes by saying that it is one thing to accept refugees and grant them refugee status, but it is another to ensure that they are welcomed and that they do not experience any more obstacles on the road to settling into Canadian life.