A B.C. woman says provincial regulations are keeping a refugee from coming to Canada, even though he has sponsors and a job waiting for him upon arrival.
Sayed Ahmadzia Ebrahimi has spent the last 18 months in Lesbos, Greece, living in a refugee camp after fleeing Afghanistan. His wife and three children are still in their home country, while he left to seek a better life for all of them.
He’s desperately trying to get out of the camp, known for its deplorable conditions.
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“You’re living in a tent, food lines take hours,” Ebrahimi said. “There is not any good doctors for refugees. Sometimes I don’t know what I should do next … sometimes it’s a lot for me.”
It’s there the documentary filmmaker met Laurie Cooper, a volunteer who led a campaign in 2018 to get Syrian asylum seeker Hassan Al Kontar out of a Kuala Lumpur airport and here to B.C.
But Ebrahimi’s case is different.
She tried another avenue: bringing Ebrahimi in as a skilled immigrant. He has valid travel documents, passing grades on his English exam and a job all lined up in Vancouver.
But she didn’t get very far when she tried to apply.
“We were told that he didn’t have enough points to come here, and the only way that he could have had enough points was if he had Canadian work experience, which is completely impossible for a refugee,” Cooper said.
The Ministry of Jobs, Trade and Technology wouldn’t comment specifically on this case, but in an email said they are “committed to assessing all applicants based on consistent criteria.”
WATCH: (Aired Nov. 27, 2018) Syrian refugee living in Malaysian airport for 7 months finally arrives in Vancouver
A score of about 100 is needed in order to receive an invitation to apply. There are about 4,000 applications in the province’s registration pool.
Cooper has spoken with the province and federal government regarding Ebrahimi’s case. While they’ve been helpful, she says the provincial nomination program needs to be reviewed.
“B.C. probably has one of the most restrictive programs in welcoming refugees to the province,” Cooper said. “It’s going to take a policy change in order to open British Columbia up to qualified refugees.”
In the meantime, Ebrahimi’s potential future employer says the delay seems unnecessary.
“It’s a complete Catch-22,” Thunderbird Entertainment president Mark Miller said. “It just seems crazy.”
Miller’s production company has a video editor job lined up for Ebrahimi — right down to a desk with his name on it.
“Everybody here is lined up to help out, to help this guy out, to give him an opportunity, and we can’t seem to get it through. It’s really frustrating,” Miller said.
Immigration policy analyst Richard Kurland says there is no easy avenue for Ebrahimi’s case.
He adds there is one possible option, which Cooper says she was told wouldn’t work: having the employer obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment and then applying for a work permit.
“It can be done in a case like this because of the unique experience of the prospective employee and the type of work,” Kurland said.
In the meantime, Ebrahimi remains hopeful his dream will come true and he’ll one day call Canada home.
“I would be a great person for Canada,” Ebrahimi said. “One day they will proud of me. They will see how hard of a worker I am.”