Refugee Claimants Can’t Bring In Quake Survivors

Refugee claimants can't bring in quake survivors

CBC News
Last Updated: Thursday, February 25, 2010 | 9:58 PM ET

Haitian refugee-claimants in Canada who don't fall under the government's fast-tracking category have been unable to reunite with children and relatives who survived last month's earthquakes, according to a senior public servant and member of Ottawa's Haitian community.

“I'm saying that there is a humanitarian crisis right under our noses,” said Gerard Etienne, who has been working with other Ottawa Haitians to help locate family members and raise money.

Shortly after the earthquake, the federal government promised to fast-track refugee applications from Haitians with immediate family in Canada.

Right now, there are 7,500 refugee claims before the Immigration and Refugee Board.

But Etienne is now helping women such as Scheida Prince, a 32-year-old Haitian mother who arrived in Canada last November and is desperately trying to reunite with her five-year-old son, who survived the quake.

Prince, who is seeking refugee status on the grounds of political persecution, thought it would be best to come to Canada first, then send for her son, Shad-Benoit.

Then the earthquake struck. Her son was living with his aunt, but the aunt didn't survive. Neighbours found the boy alive under the rubble.

Prince doesn't have any immediate family in Canada and doesn't fall under the government's fast-tracking category. She's desperately trying to find a way to bring her son, who has asthma, to Canada.

“I feel powerless,” she said in French to CBC News. “Powerless because my son suffers and I can do nothing for him. He's sick and I can't take care of him. I can't feed him. It's what every mother wants to do, to nurture their child as soon as he comes into the world.”

As it stands, Prince's refugee case could 18 months or more before it's reviewed. Etienne said that's far too long for a boy who's running out of time.

“It's a simple problem it's undue prejudice to separate the two and to leave a five-year-old who has asthma on the streets of Haiti,” he said. “Most Canadians will understand that. A mother will understand that. A father will understand that.”

Etienne said the government should make exceptions in its refugee policies for urgent situations such as Prince's and issue her son a temporary visa. In the meantime, Etienne said he is obtaining special permission from the Canadian and Haitian governments to go to Port-au-Prince and bring Shad-Benoit back to his mother.


Story comments :

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lacrosseguy wrote:Posted 2010/02/26

at 8:56 AM ETIf it is such a big concern, I think that Canada should foot the bill for the plane tickets for Haitians(or any other refugee) that want to be reunited with their families. Of course, it would be a one way ticket back to Haiti.

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truecard wrote:Posted 2010/02/26
at 3:00 AM ETWhy would we allow refugees to bring in even more family before we've even reviewed whether the claimant is legitimate? If the process takes to long that is a whole other issue, but allowing them to bring family before they've even had their refugee claim reviewed is not a good idea, our system gets abused enough as it is.