By Shelby Thevenot and Alexandra Miekus
MONTREAL, Canada (CIC NEWS) – Canada is working on a temporary program that will give asylum seekers a pathway to permanent residence if they worked in healthcare during the coronavirus pandemic.
The program is expected to launch in the next few weeks, Radio Canada reports. Though it is not yet known how many people would be affected, the numbers could reach in the thousands. Quebec is said to be home to the majority of asylum seekers who could be eligible for the new measure.
La Maison d’Haïti, a Quebec-based support organization for migrants, estimates as many as 1,000 asylum seekers are currently working in the province’s health sector. Many are still working through the pandemic despite having their claims rejected, or while waiting on decisions from the government.
The organization has been very outspoken on this subject in recent weeks, stating that many asylum seekers are now well integrated into Canadian society and has been asking that their hard work and dedication be recognized.
Multiple requests for the regularization of the status of asylum seekers currently on the front lines in care facilities have been submitted to the Government of Quebec by both immigration lawyers and humanitarian organizations.
However, asylum seekers’ claims do not fall under provincial jurisdiction. In fact, an independent administrative tribunal, the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, reviews these claims. That is why the file is now in the hands of the Canadian government.
Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino presented the details of the project to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Cabinet Committee on Tuesday. Canada’s French-language public broadcaster, Radio Canada, was able to obtain a copy of the presentation. Cabinet must first approve the program proposed by the minister before it can go into effect.
The proposed measure is not just limited to workers in long-care facilities, but also includes workers in hospitals such as nurses aides, security, and others.
However, asylum seekers working in other fields, even if they were essential during the pandemic, are not included in the proposed program.
The eligibility criteria presented by the immigration minister are as follows, candidates must:
- Be an asylum seeker, even if the original application had failed, or if the claim is still pending;
- Have requested asylum before the date that the measure will be announced;
- Hold a valid work permit;
- Have worked in the health field; and
- Have worked for at least four weeks, or 120 hours, between January 25, 2020, and until the date of the announcement of the special measure.
Recruitment of immigrants to work in healthcare part of new Quebec reforms
After reducing immigration levels in its first year in power, the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government recently announced a plan to recruit immigrants to work as orderlies in the province’s long-term care homes.
Part of the plan includes the launch of a pilot program to provide permanent residence to up to 550 experienced healthcare workers per year.