The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in deepened vulnerability for refugees: persecution, war and disasters continue to displace people and displacement creates automatic vulnerability to COVID-19 transmission and other health risks. The pandemic demonstrates again and again that health and healing are a matter of interdependence within communities and across international borders. This reality of global interdependence means that refugee protection and settlement are urgent and must not be put on hold.
The Centre for Public Dialogue has partnered with Citizens for Public Justice in the release of the Continuing Welcome report. This report analyzes the federal government’s efforts to address the refugee sponsorship challenges raised by Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAHs) in A Half Welcome, Citizens for Public Justice's 2017 report.
The report details the progress that has been made over the past three years. Continuing Welcome also addresses arising issues such as additionality in sponsorship, SAH-government communication, family reunification, and program monitoring.
The current context raises urgency that echoes the challenges in the report. Since January 2020, only 6,000 refugees have been admitted despite the 32,000 refugee resettlement goal this year. This is due to COVID-19 related travel restrictions; only those approved before March 18, 2020 are eligible for travel. Removing travel restrictions, with appropriate attention to infection control guidelines, will provide urgent protection to refugees and allow Canada to begin managing the rapidly growing backlog of applications in the system. Backlog management is a critical policy priority that we brought forward in Continuing Welcome. Canada can lift travel restrictions for refugees while at the same time protecting public health and safety. We support the SAH Council’s call on the Government to add an exemption to the travel restrictions for all refugees that are approved for resettlement to Canada regardless of their approval date.
The government of Canada has made major commitments to refugee resettlement and integration in both the Throne Speech and the 2021-23 immigration levels plan. Immigration, including refugee resettlement, will be critical for Canada’s post-COVID economic recovery so it's pragmatic to pursue these commitments vigorously. It is also a matter of urgent justice to move forward on ambitious settlement targets in order to provide needed protection for refugees.
You can find more of the tools and resources that the Centre for Public Dialogue offers at the website below. Additionally, you can take action for the implementation of the goals set out in the report in this action alert.