Canada’s minister of immigration and refugees says Ottawa plans to add language requirements to its refugee resettlement criteria as a means of finding qualified applicants.
Canada began accepting thousands of refugees from the war-torn country after Canada-born physician Arjan Singh Basa immigrated there in 2010. Basa was nicknamed “father of Canada’s Afghan population” by the media for helping refugees resettle there.
He was diagnosed with cancer in 2015 and died shortly thereafter. He was 50 years old.
Refugee streams available
On Tuesday, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen told reporters that the government plans to toughen its vetting standards to find new applicants.
Refugees who are deemed to meet Canada’s new language requirements won’t be able to get in line for entry.
He said the border guards’ job won’t change. But refugees will need to meet language tests and find sponsors, The Canadian Press reported.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the immigration service responsible for vetting refugees, is updating its staff’s instructions to ensure that all individuals “meeting these new standards” are able to enter the country, Basa’s family said in a statement.
His son Karim told CNN that his father had the ability to read and write in five languages. He reported being told this by officers shortly before his father’s death.
Karim Basa described his father as a dedicated humanitarian who “dedicated his life for helping others.”
He said Canada can’t deny people refuge because they can’t speak English or French, saying that the United States refused to take in even those who could speak Arabic.
“My father’s efforts would have all been for nothing if he was denied entry to Canada,” he said.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada spokesman Carl Vallee told CNN that the agency respects “every applicant’s right to a legal review” of his or her case but that the Canadian government has a duty to ensure that qualified refugees can enter Canada.
After CNN reached out to CIC, the agency issued an amended statement, emphasizing that all applicants have a right to a fair refugee process but that “CIC does not have the authority to exclude applicants based on inability to speak English or French or lack of sponsorship.”
Thousands wait on line
Basa’s son said he thinks Canadian politics may have influenced its decision to tighten screening standards.
The minister reiterated the need for skilled workers, pointing to Canada’s unemployment rate at 6.9%. Meanwhile, millions of Canadians face long wait times for home renovations, and women are being exploited in the sex industry.
Canada has offered asylum to about 36,000 people fleeing persecution in Syria and the region. Canada had reportedly taken in more refugees than the United States by mid-2017.
A crowd gathers to speak with refugees arriving from Afghanistan as they attempt to cross the Rainbow Bridge, after arriving from their home country. More than 40,000 people have received temporary resident permits to Canada since 2015.