Immigration minister “not totally up to date” on Congolese adoption red tape
WATCH ABOVE: Canada’s immigration minister is promising to look into the cases of more than a dozen children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo waiting to join their adoptive families here in Canada. Randene Neill has a Global News update.
UPDATE: Canada’s Immigration Minister Chris Alexander was in Vancouver today boasting about the progress of Startup Visa, a program to attract and fast track entrepreneurs into Canada. But when asked about Canada failing to issue travel visas for a dozen children in the Congo who have been adopted by Canadians, the minister said, “it’s not something I’m totally up to date on.” He went on to say they have strong teams in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and he looks forward to seeing the issue resolved soon. Although Alexander said the issue is a priority and it’s being working on, he could not give a specific date the visas would be granted.
Every few months, Fred and Shelley Muntau go through their son’s clothes and put aside the one’s he’s outgrown and never worn. All for a little boy they’ve never met.
Close to a dozen families in Canada, including several in B.C., are angry that Immigration Canada is preventing them from bringing their adoptive children home. The families adopted the children from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and it’s a process that in some cases, has taken years and cost the families thousands of dollars.
The paperwork is done, the kids are legally theirs but Canada will not issue the children travel visas to their new home.
For the Muntaus, they finalized the adoption of their son, Pedro, who was an orphan, when he was six months old. Now he’s almost two years old and they still are unable to bring him home.
“We didn’t think we’d miss his first birthday and now we’re going to miss his second birthday,” an emotional Shelley Muntau told Global News.
“He’s our legal responsibility, he’s our financial responsibility. We are responsible for his care, his medical expenses, we are his parents.”
There are 11 Canadian families in a similar situation as the Muntau’s, who are waiting for Canada to issue them a visa to bring their children home. Citizenship and Immigration Canada says it will not issue the children visas because it says the DRC is not issuing exit letters, which is the final step to allow the children to leave the Congo.
But the DRC says they cannot issue those exit letters until the children have a Canadian visa.
Tosh and Robert Arn in Kelowna are also waiting for their daughter Sarah, who has malaria and had both of her parents die of starvation. The couple is desperate to get Sarah home.
“We need a visa to get an exit letter, and the Congolese government has said, ‘yes we will give you the exit letter if you give us a visa’ and Canada is saying ‘we won’t give you a visa until you have an exit letter’,” Tosh Arn says.
The frustration of these families is palpable.
“The Italian government last month sent a plane to bring home all of their kids — all of those kids got issued exit letters,” Shelley says. “They got on that Italian plane sent by the Italian government and they all went home, along with a number of U.S. families, who got their exit letters as well.”
“We still wait.”
Due to the Canadian government refusing to advocate for these families, they feel as though they’re stuck in a nightmare. Immigration has even warned them against flying to the Congo to get their kids.
The families are desperate to follow the proper legal process but their options are limited and it comes down to the someone in the system coming to their senses.
~ with files from Randene Neill