Countries and international organisations around the world have taken a serious approach to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), such as introducing international travel restrictions and closing their borders. Canada is no exception.
However, Canadian citizens, permanent residents, immediate family members of permanent residents and Canadians, as well as work and study permit holders will still be able to return to Canada.
In light of travel restrictions throughout the world, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have announced that they are taking steps to temporary pause resettlement travel for refugees.
These international organisations are concerned that without putting a pause to resettlement travel, refugees may be at risk of getting exposed to the coronavirus.
Last year, the UNHCR assisted the resettlement of some 63,600 refugees. A large number of whom was from Syria. Resettlement consists of moving refugees from a state that has given them asylum, to a third state that has promised them permanent residence.
Canada is one of the few advanced countries offering resettlement solutions via the UNHCR programme. Other countries include Germany, the United States, Australia and the UK, as well as the Nordic countries. Since Donald Trump assumed office as President of the United States back in 2016, Canada has been the only country to offer resettlement solutions.
“Resettlement give a vital lifeline for particularly vulnerable refugees, and UNHCR and IOM will continue their work in refugee-hosting countries, in conjunction with all relevant partners, to make sure that the processing of cases for resettlement continues,” the UN Refugee Agency declared in a statement.
A video released on Twitter by UNHCR Canada says that refugees fleeing wars may still be permitted to cross borders, even if countries adopt measures to help contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Despite these claims, many countries have temporarily put a hold to refugee intake and resettlement arrivals, according to UNHCR.
As such, the IOM and UNHCR are soliciting help from countries to allow the entry of refugees who are at risk of being exposed to the virus.
Canada’s commitment to refugees
At the beginning of the year, Canada announced its 2020-2022 immigration levels plan, which declares plans to allow more than one million newcomers to enter Canada over the next three years. Of these newcomers, Canada would seek to welcome 154,600 refugees.
With this announcement coming amidst the new coronavirus outbreak, it is unlikely that the plans will change, and Canada may continue to take refugees, including resettled refugees.
Non-resettled refugees or irregular migrants are those who have not yet been granted asylum in a second country.
In light of the new coronavirus outbreak, the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has put in place outstanding measures. Irregular refugees and migrants crossing the border by foot from the United States will be returned, even if the asylum claim is made at a port of entry.
All refugee claimant appointments are cancelled until further notice. The IRCC may contact refugee claimants with information about the new appointment dates.
Asylum seekers can still lodge an in-person refugee claim if they don’t have a pre-scheduled appointment.
Once the coronavirus has subsided, Canada will likely return to welcoming large numbers of immigrants and resettled refugees.