Customs & Immigration

Some coronavirus border rules eased

Effective April 25, some of Canada’s pandemic border restrictions are being eased for those who are fully vaccinated and for children aged five to 11 regardless of their vaccination status as long as they are accompanied by a vaccinated parent or guardian. Pre-entry remains mandatory for eligible party-vaccinated or unvaccinated visitors aged 12 and up and vaccine mandates remain in effect for boarding aircraft, trains or cruise ships. [node:read-more:link]

Vets charity says Canada “risk averse”

The Vancouver-based Veterans Transition Network, having raised $3.6 million and helped to rescue 2,061 Afghanis since the Taliban took control, is refocusing its efforts to help veterans deal with mental-health issues. Among other things, VRN Executive Director Oliver Thorne blames “government policy that is very risk averse to the point of being selfish.” [node:read-more:link]

Coronavirus travel rules to ease

Effective April 1, the federal government will scrap pre-entry coronavirus testing for all returning travellers who are at least double-vaccinated. “We are now entering into a transition phase of this pandemic,” However, travellers will still need to complete a questionnaire about their vaccination status and travel history. [node:read-more:link]

Accused human smuggler indicted

A U.S. grand jury has indicted a Florida resident arrested Jan. 19 near the Manitoba-U.S. border last month and accused of involvement in human smuggling. Steve Anthony Shand was arrested shortly after RCMP found the bodies of a family of four from India who froze to death a few metres north of the border after being separated from others in their party found in a van driven by Shand. [node:read-more:link]

Canada’s immigration system clogged

Despite calls for an immigration freeze to allow time for addressing an already problematic backlog of applications, the latest federal plan calls for some 448,000 citizenship applications, 519,030 permanent residency applications and 848,598 temporary residency applications to be processed. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Sean Fraser says the current backlog is due to a surge in applications issues he says are “a direct result of the virus blocking our operations.” [node:read-more:link]

Confused by coronavirus policies?

Canada has had a vaccine requirement for travellers for almost two months but some, such as returning Canadians are exempt. Moreover, unvaccinated foreigners in Canada can board departing flights until the end of February and some unvaccinated foreign nationals such as those granted permanent residency or visiting for compassionate reason are still able to enter. [node:read-more:link]

Airlines question quarantine policy

Air Canada, WestJet and Toronto International Airport have asked Ottawa to drop its requirement for vaccinated travellers to be tested for coronavirus on arrival. “As the government has ramped up testing at airports for international arrivals, we have seen frontline workers struggle to get PCR tests, and lab processing capacity decrease significantly,” they said Jan. 17. “There is a growing discrepancy between resources allocated to asymptomatic travellers and to those who need it most.” [node:read-more:link]

Hungarian PM defying EU

Prime Minister Viktor Orban says Hungary plans to stick with controversial immigration legislation despite a European Union ruling that Hungarian law breaches EU law by criminalizing lawyers and activists who help asylum seekers. It also prevents asylum seekers from applying for status if they arrive from a country where their lives are deemed not to be at risk. [node:read-more:link]

Former CAF leader laments Afghan girl’s death

A 10-year-old Afghan girl preparing to come to Canada was recently killed at Taliban roadblock and retired MGen David Fraser, who commanded NATO troops in Kandahar, says her death shows that the federal government isn’t moving fast enough to patriate its former allies. The girl’s father had worked for the Canadian Armed Forces in Kandahar, and Kynan Walper, chief operations officer at a group helping them, agrees that “this young girl is dead because of delays in getting people over here.” [node:read-more:link]

Omicron spread rate unprecedented

The World Health Organization said today that the coronavirus Omicron variant is spreading globally at an unprecedented rate with cases confirmed in 77 countries and suspected in any others. “Surely, we have learned by now that we underestimate this virus at our peril,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Even if Omicron does cause less severe disease, the sheer number of cases could once again overwhelm unprepared health systems.” [node:read-more:link]

Slow progress on Afghan refugees

Only about 10 per cent of the 40,000 Afghan refugees the federal government promised to bring into the country have arrived and it could take up to two years to resettle everyone. “When you're trying to move 40,000 people out of the most challenging environments imaginable, one of the most dangerous places in the world today, it's not easy,” Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Sean Fraser said after seven weeks on the job. “What I'm really encouraged by is that we're starting to see a regular pace.” [node:read-more:link]

COVID-19 screening increasingly stringent

Air travellers entering Canada, except from the U.S., now must tested on arrival for COVID-19 even if fully-vaccinated and must isolate until they get the results. The strict requirements announced Nov. 30 are in response to the Omicron variant which has been confirmed in four provinces among persons returning from Nigeria. The government expanded its border closure to travelled through that country or Egypt and Malawi after refusing entries last week from South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Namibia and eSwatini. [node:read-more:link]

Afghan refugees’ bureaucratic nightmare

An Afghan mother and family, having been safely evacuated with the help of Canada’s special immigration program, had hoped to be in Canada by now. Instead, they’re stuck in Albania after spending a month in Qatar and Canada’s missions in both countries have said they have to deal with the embassy in Rome. “There's been this kind of good policy intent but there's been a tremendous amount of confusion,” says the head of the Canadian Council for Refugees. “People . . . are feeling very frustrated with the Canadian government.” [node:read-more:link]

Falling short on refugee admissions

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada reports that it is falling short of welcoming 81,000 refugees by the end of 2021. It had processed some 7,800 government-assisted refugees by the end of October, well below the target for the year of 12,500 as well as more than 32,000 refugees who requested asylum after entering the country, also well below the target of 45,000. Also, Canada had accepted just 4,500 privately-sponsored refugees compared with an intake goal of 22,500. [node:read-more:link]

Canada ends pandemic refugee blockage

The federal government is ending a policy of turning back asylum-seekers due to COVID-19 concerns. At least 544 would-be refugees were sent back to the U.S. between March 2020 and mid-October but refugee advocates argued that asylum claims should not be considered “discretionary travel” and pointed to class exemptions during the pandemic for professional athletes and others. [node:read-more:link]


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