Release: COVID19 Frontline Health Workers Call for Urgent Changes As Unfilled Immigration Program Set to Close

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Healthcare Stream of New Immigration Pathway Expires on November 6 with 15,000 spots unfilled because refugees and undocumented people cannot apply

Canada – A group of healthcare workers, all African refugee claimants, spoke out today calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to allow refugee claimants and undocumented people to apply for the Temporary Resident to Permanent Resident (TR to PR) program, without restrictions based on occupation and language, as part of a broader call for full and permanent immigration status for all. The program is set to close on November 6th with 15,000 spots still empty. Hundreds of people have already signed a petition launched just a few days ago: 

“I can’t count the number of days I could not go home, moving from one job to another and working extra shifts, even getting stuck on duty due to the shortage of staff as a result of the pandemic. Even when the cases were dangerously high and no one was willing to go to work,  I defied the virus, putting my life at risk to ensure the wellbeing of our seniors and adults with disabilities,” said Fasanya Kolade, a Nigerian refugee who works in Newfoundland. 

“I felt humiliated when the eligibility requirements excluded me despite meeting most of the requirements. I am here to call on the Canadian Government to grant all migrants full and permanent immigration status,” he added. 

The Temporary Resident to Permanent Resident program was launched on May 6th, with three streams through which migrants could apply for permanent resident status on a first-come, first-served basis until the caps were reached. The International Graduates stream filled up in 27 hours and the Essential Workers stream closed in 10 weeks, but the Healthcare Stream has nearly 15,000 spots that remain empty. The Healthcare Stream was the centerpiece of the program, and then Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino did two online media events with healthcare workers to promote the program. However, the program excludes refugee claimants and undocumented residents, and excludes many of the occupations that are a vital part of the healthcare system. 

“Opening up this stream to all refugee claimants and undocumented people, without occupational restrictions, is simply a no-brainer when 15,000 spots sit empty and will evaporate on November 6th,” says Syed Hussan, Executive Director of Migrant Workers Alliance for Change. “The way this program was designed and rolled out, excluding most low-waged and racialized migrants, suggests that those in the driver’s seat on immigration policy either don’t know what they are doing or or want to keep Black and other racialized poor migrants working without equal rights. If this government really means what it says about how essential migrants are to building a better future, it must ensure full and permanent immigration status for all residents without exclusions.”

When the TR to PR program was first launched in May, the Migrant Rights Network released a report based on a survey of nearly 3000 migrants that showed that the program would not benefit the majority of migrant and undocumented people because of the exclusionary criteria. The healthcare stream remains unfilled because the high-wage doctors and specialists that would qualify already have other options to get citizenship, while the low-wage workers who have no other options are disqualified. 

“All migrants are willing to do what is needed but our hands are tied up because we don’t have permanent resident status. No matter what work we do, or our English language test results, all of us are human,” said Florence, a Ugandan refugee claimant and mother. Florence was barred from applying for refugee status in Canada because she first applied for asylum in the US. Florence’s daughter died in May 2020, while Florence was in Canada providing care to adults with complex mental and physical disabilities. 

Jane, a lesbian Nigerian refugee claimant who does in-home elderly care in Hamilton, agreed: “When I first heard of the health worker patthway, I knew that God had finally heard not only my cries but also other people in my situation, but I was denied because of my immigration status. And now with just a few weeks left, there are over 15,000 spots that are still not filled! We all need justice in this country regardless of who we are, where we come from, what we do.”  

Doa, a Nigerian refugee and mother of two children, both Canadian citizens, worked at a residential facility where a COVID19 outbreak affected all residents and staff, resulting in one death. “The government calls us essential workers but has designed a pathway we can not use. All migrants are essential no matter what we do. My demand is that all migrants deserve permanent resident status immediately so we can protect ourselves and our dear family.” 



Headquartered in Toronto, the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change is building a democratic membership-based organization of migrant farm workers, care workers, students and more to win worker and immigration rights.