Would you, the Canadian taxpayer, prefer to see refugee claimants in Canada work to support themselves and their family members or go on welfare at your expense?
Silly question right?
Of course, refugee claimants should, to the extent that they are able, provide for themselves and their families while they are in Canada awaiting a refugee hearing.
For that very reason, our immigration laws specifically allow refugee claimants to apply for a work permit so they can lawfully work here and avoid having to resort to social assistance for the basic necessities of life.
Obviously, to give this policy maximum effect, it is important for our immigration department to process these work permit applications as quickly as possible so that these claimants can, in turn, get to work quickly and avoid the need to seek out the help of the nearest welfare office.
For this reason I was quite surprised to see a letter last week from our immigration department confirming that such applications, which are really not that complicated, can take 16 weeks to process.
I have checked with others in my office and with other experienced lawyers who confirm that the processing time of these applications has been steadily increasing over the past few years and that a delay of four months is now quite common.
Many refugee claimants have a strong work ethic and do not like sitting at home for four months waiting for a work permit to show up in the mail. They would rather work to support themselves than await a government handout.
At present, our immigration department cannot issue a work permit to a refugee claimant until he/she has undergone a medical examination and the department has cleared the results. This procedure is designed to ensure that refugee claimants do not take work where the protection of the public health is required i.e. work in hospitals, child/senior care, restaurants, etc.
However, there are many jobs that refugee claimants can do that don’t require the protection of the public health i.e. factory work, maintenance, construction, etc.
Our department should be authorized to issue restricted work permits to refugee claimants as soon as they make a claim for protection. The restriction on their ability to work in occupations involving the protection of public health can be lifted once the medicals are completed and the results analyzed. Such a policy change can save upwards of four months of welfare for every one of the 20,000 to 30,000 refugee claimants Canada receives every year.
The savings to the Canadian taxpayer could be significant in the short term and enormous in the long term if we can prevent the initial access to welfare which can later turn into a chronic, expensive, and long-term habit.
Guidy Mamann, J.D. practices law in Toronto at Mamann, Sandaluk and is certified by the Law Society of Upper Canada as an immigration specialist. For more information, visit www.migrationlaw.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org