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Temporary immigration route for essential workers and graduates excludes too many, critics say

Temporary immigration route for essential workers and graduates excludes too many, critics say

A group that advocates for migrants’ rights is pushing for changes to a recently announced short-term immigration program, calling it unfair, exploitative and exclusionary.

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino announced a new immigration route last month that will allow up to 90,000 essential workers and international graduates already in Canada to convert from temporary to permanent status.

The program – which will begin accepting applications on Thursday – is a rare opportunity for low-wage, low-skilled workers to gain permanent residence and, eventually, Canadian citizenship through an immigration system that normally prioritizes applicants. highly skilled workers.

But the Migrant Rights Network says a large number of workers, students and recent graduates with temporary or undocumented immigration status do not qualify for application. The group says those who qualify scramble to get the necessary language test scores and other required documents as they compete for a limited number of first-come, first-served places.

“Any belief that the program would finally secure rights, protection and dignity, even for low-wage workers, has been short-lived,” the group wrote in a report released today.

“Refugees, undocumented migrants and hundreds of thousands of other migrants have realized that the exclusions and requirements of the program exclude them.”

The criticism targets a move the Liberal government hopes will help it accept 401,000 new permanent residents – after a year when travel restrictions and the backlog caused by the pandemic have significantly slowed immigration.

Canada welcomed 184,624 immigrants in 2020 – the lowest number for a year since 1998, according to Statistics Canada. The pre-pandemic target set by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada for 2020 was 341,000 new immigrants.

Under the temporary route announced last month, the immigration service will handle up to 20,000 applications for temporary workers in the health sector, 30,000 applications for temporary workers from a list of judged jobs. “Essential” and 40,000 requests for international students.

Migrant survey

When the program was announced, the Migrant Rights Network created an online tool to help migrants find out if they were qualified for the program. The tool also allowed them to share information about their personal immigration situation.

The group says more than 3,000 migrants responded to the survey and analyzed some of these findings in its report, which is neither scientific nor nationally representative.

Many said they did not meet the qualification requirements for one of the following reasons: they are undocumented because they have exceeded the term of their temporary visa or their work permit has expired, they are asylum seekers, they are an international student who did not. have still obtained their diploma or temporary resident in Quebec.

Others are not eligible because they have medical issues or previous criminal convictions, or because they do not have valid and eligible language test results proving they are proficient in English.

“The federal government has created a short-term agenda for the few that excludes many,” Syed Hussan, executive director of Migrant Rights Network, said today. “What we need is permanent status for all.”

Syed Hussan is the executive director of the Migrant Rights Network. (Jason Viau / CBC)

The Migrant Rights Network’s survey also highlighted a number of barriers faced by migrants eligible for the program – the difficulty of booking English tests at one of the two accredited testing centers, for example.

A second hurdle is the fact that many workers do not have enough money saved to pay high fees for a permanent residency application or to pay immigration consultants and lawyers to help them navigate the system.

“Collectively, that means people who don’t speak English, people who don’t have good jobs, people who don’t have money, people who are stuck overseas, mostly essential workers of the low-paid working class, are being pushed to the bottom of the line, ”Hussan said.

He said those without permanent status have limited access to labor rights, health care and education. He invited Mendicino to sit down with his group to make the program more accessible.

CBC News has requested an interview with Mendicino, but has yet to receive a response from the minister’s office.

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