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WES Weekly Roundup December 13, 2023

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World Education Services (WES) is a non-profit social enterprise dedicated to helping international students, immigrants, and refugees achieve their educational and career goals in the United States and Canada. The weekly roundup includes research, stories, and events of interest to the Canadian immigration and settlement community. This content has been created by WES and is reproduced here with their permission, in partnership.

FRENCH: Asylum Seekers: "It's up to the other provinces to do their part," says Quebec (Radio Canada)

The province of Quebec has chosen not to join a recent Canadian federal program designed to grant residency to 11,000 individuals from Haiti, Venezuela, and Colombia. Christine Fréchette, the Minister of the Ministry of Immigration, Francisation, and Integration in Quebec, defended this decision, pointing out Quebec's significant role in accepting asylum seekers in the past, with the province having received 55 percent of all asylum seekers who have arrived in Canada from November 2021 to October 2023. She stated that this is particularly noteworthy considering that Quebec represents only 22 percent of Canada's total population. The decision has been criticized by many human rights groups, including the Haitian Consultation for Migrants, which views Quebec's non-participation in the program as unjust. The federal program, established following the closure of the Roxham Road border crossing in March 2023, is primarily aimed at facilitating family reunification for nationals from Haiti, Venezuela, and Colombia. Minister Fréchette pointed out that many recently arrived asylum seekers are from these countries already and stated that other provinces in Canada are well-positioned to accommodate the 11,000 individuals targeted by the new program. A meeting took place on Friday, December 8, between Minister Miller and Minister Fréchette, and covered a range of important topics, including the equitable distribution of asylum seekers throughout Canada and Quebec's request for reimbursement of the costs associated with hosting asylum seekers. Minister Fréchette is also working to push for quicker processing of work permits for asylum seekers and to propose changes to the tourist visa system to prevent exploitation.

Canada to limit study permits for international students, raise financial requirement (Toronto Star)

Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has announced several measures to address fraud in international student programming. Among these reforms are limits to the number of study permits issued and the number of hours international students can work off campus. Beginning January 1, 2024, IRCC will reinstate that limit of 20 off-campus weekly work hours, after allowing a maximum of 40 hours during the pandemic. Additionally, IRCC will increase the cost-of-living financial requirement for study permit applicants, from the current $10,000 to $20,635 in addition to their first year of tuition and travel costs to ensure that international students are 'better prepared' for life in Canada. The threshold is expected to be adjusted annually in line with other immigration programs and updates to the low-income cut off. According to Immigration Minister, Marc Miller, "our [IRCC] aim is to strike the right balance between welcoming international students and making sure they have all that they need to thrive" citing that the responsibility lies with colleges, universities, provinces, as well as the federal government to support the integrity of the international student programs and the success of students.

Ottawa urged to create pathway for undocumented migrants to stay as deportations rise (Globe and Mail)

The Canadian government is facing increasing pressure to establish a program for undocumented migrants in Canada to gain legal status. This comes against the backdrop of a significant rise in deportations, with an average of 39 people deported daily in the first half of 2023, totaling 7,032 – a notable increase from previous years. Currently, it's estimated that around 500,000 undocumented migrants, including failed asylum seekers and those with expired visas, are living in Canada. Despite a 2021 mandate to the then-immigration minister to explore ways to regularize the status of undocumented migrants, no formal proposal has been presented yet. Syed Hussan from the Migrant Rights Network points out that many of these individuals initially entered Canada legally, but their documents have since expired. He argues for a program that would address the exploitation faced by many of these migrants, who often work in low-wage, precarious jobs. Similar regularization programs have been implemented in various European Union countries, such as Italy, Spain, and Ireland. Concerns have also been raised about the Canada Border Services Agency's (CBSA) capacity to track foreign nationals awaiting deportation, including those with criminal records. While the CBSA emphasizes its focus on public safety by prioritizing the removal of individuals with criminality, there has been no further comment from the agency regarding these issues as of the article's publication.

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