IRCC rule could leave 9-year-old refugee in the lurch
A mother from Sudan and her two teenage sons are facing possible removal from Canada at any time, after their requests for asylum were refused.
What makes their case unique is the fact the woman’s nine-year-old daughter had her refugee claim approved because it’s feared she could face genital mutilation if she’s sent back home to Sudan.
This has left the girl’s mother to face a terrible decision — leave her daughter alone in Canada as a ward of the state, or take her back to Sudan to face possibly mutilation at the hands of her extended family.
“That’s the horrible part of this whole thing,” says the family’s lawyer, Meera Budovitch. “The choice is to bring her to Sudan, where the Refugee Protection Division has already determined she’s at risk, or leave her here in state care, basically.”
A key concern is the fact Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) only considers spouses, common-law partners and dependents as family members on permanent residence applications.
Lawyers filing the girl’s Protected Person application for permanent residence have requested an exemption to this rule on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, but there are no guarantees that an exemption will be granted.
Canada’s Immigration Minister, Ahmed Hussen, said the refusal to bend the definition of “family member” in child refugee cases is meant to deter parents from sending children to Canada alone, which could “expose them to human traffickers and vulnerable situations.”
In a report on a similar case, Global News cited 2006 testimony from an immigration official who offered another reason for the policy, namely that it prevented children from being used as “anchors” to get parents and other family members into Canada.
Various legal challenges over the years have sought to overturn IRCC’s strict adherence to its definition of “family member” in child refugee cases on the grounds it violates both Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms and its international commitments to protect the rights of children and refugees.
According to lawyer Geraldine Sadoway, who has led many of these challenges, IRCC usually ends up approving these cases on humanitarian and compassionate grounds before they reach court, knowing full well that its definition of family would be overturned by a judge.
Budovitch says it’s been a year since she filed for an exemption to the rule on behalf of the family, and it could be another 12 months before the mother and her children know their fate.
It’s a situation the family has called “inhumane,” and rightly so.
“It’s unfair and it’s putting this family in a very difficult decision,” Budovitch says. “Children who have been found to be refugees in Canada should be able to be able to include their family in Canada on their application [for permanent residence], just like a mother would be able to include her daughter.”
“It doesn’t make any sense why a child wouldn’t be able to include her mother and siblings.”
Given all of IRCC’s talk about family reunification, this makes no sense at all.
It’s certainly a situation no nine year old and no mother should have to face.