While Canada’s Immigration minister says changes are already underway to speed up Canada’s ‘onerous’ refugee application process, the campaigning Liberal and NDP leaders say the country can go beyond untangling bureaucratic red tape by committing to take more refugees.
Appearing on CTV’s Canada AM Friday, Alexander said changes are already underway to reduce the wait time for those escaping conflict in the Mideast.
“We have reduced the processing time for refugees coming from the region to under one year. It used to be much longer than that,” he said. “Our partners are pleased with that progress. But we want to go further. We want to be able to process people faster.”
On Thursday, the family of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old whose lifeless body was photographed on a Turkish beach after an attempt to cross the Mediterranean to Greece, revealed that his uncle had tried to enter Canada as a refugee, but was refused.
Tima Kurdi, aunt to the little boy, said her older brother Mohammad Kurdi’s application was denied because he did not have a Turkish work permit or proof of refugee status from the United Nations.
When her other brother, Alan’s father Abdullah, learned about the rejected application she says he weighed his own prospects and decided to seek asylum in Europe instead.
In a statement late Thursday, she implored the Canadian government “to work immediately to improve the application procedure based on the current humanitarian crisis.”
Alexander was asked Friday whether the current system is too onerous for refugees; he replied his ministry is trying to make the system easier.
“You’re right; it’s onerous. These people don’t have documents, some of them are invalid. It’s hard to get exit permits from these countries like Turkey,” he said.
He noted as well that the UNHCR – “Canada’s partner in this” — has given official refugee status to only one per cent of the people who have fled Syria. But he said Canada has reduced the processing time for refugees coming from Syria and Iraq to less than one year.
“It used to be much longer than that. Our partners are pleased with that progress. But we want to go further. We want to be able to process people faster,” he said