|Minister of Public Safety Steven Blaney responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014. Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press|
Canada will soon resume the deportations of roughly 3,500 people to Haiti and Zimbabwe, countries critics say are still struggling with the aftermath of natural and man-made disasters.
Immigration Minister Chris Alexander and Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said the temporary suspension of deportations to both countries has been lifted and migrants from Haiti and Zimbabwe can face removal after six months if they remain without legal status.
The decision leaves only three countries — Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Iraq — on Canada’s removal moratorium list.
“Canada is one of the most generous countries in the world, and we have extended that generosity for over 10 years to Haitians and Zimbabweans by allowing them to stay in Canada because of unsafe conditions in their countries,” Alexander said. “With the temporary suspension now lifted, the uncertainty has ended.”
In justifying the decision, Blaney said Canada is simply following the steps of its “allies” after a thorough review of country conditions. “Haitians and Zimbabweans have demonstrated tremendous courage in recovering from the earthquake of 2010 and years of political instability,” he said.
Immigration officials said as many as 3,200 Haitian and 300 Zimbabwean nationals could be subject to removal as a result.
Advocates for refugees were shocked by Ottawa’s decision, citing reports by the federal government itself and international aid groups that found little progress in those countries.
“The conditions have not improved at all,” said lawyer Raoul Boulakia, president of Refugee Lawyers Association of Ontario. “For Canada to lift the suspension of removals when things remain precarious, it’s a complete disregard of what’s happening there.”
The Canadian government currently has a travel advisory for Haiti, saying “the security situation is hazardous and very unpredictable.” A travel advisory for Zimbabwe says, “Crime, exacerbated by a very difficult economic situation, remains a serious problem for foreign visitors and residents alike.”
Ottawa said all affected individuals are given six months to apply for permanent residency based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, a process critics say lacks clear criteria for acceptance. Meanwhile, border officials will defer any removal pending a final decision on their application.
However, both the refugee council and la Maison d’Haiti, a Montreal-based Haitian community group, urge the government to grant these people permanent residence if they have been here for three or more years.
Canadian government assessments
Ottawa’s decision to end deportation moratoriums was based on the following findings.
- Not in a state of war or extreme civil strife.
- Canada has committed over $1 billion since 2006, which helps stabilize the conditions.
- Displaced persons are being resettled into safer housing.
- General living conditions, political stability and the level of security have improved.
- France, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and French Guiana are removing individuals to Haiti.
- There are regular international flights to and from Haiti.
Not in a state of war or extreme civil strife.
- International humanitarian assistance is available.
- Displaced persons and refugees are returning to their homes.
- The U.S., Australia, the U.K. and South Africa are removing individuals to Zimbabwe.
- There are regular international flights to and from Zimbabwe.