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Asylum seekers confused by Quebec government’s messages on immigration

Click to play video 'Asylum seekers confused by Quebec Government’s mixed messages' Asylum seekers confused by Quebec Government’s mixed messages
WATCH: Refugee claimants and advocates are reacting with disappointment to Premier François Legault's promise Monday to consider pushing for residency status for asylum seekers. They say the premier's message is causing confusion and that his pledge doesn't go far enough. Global's Phil Carpenter explains.

Refugee claimants and advocates say Quebec Premier François Legault’s promise Monday to consider pushing for residency status for asylum seekers in the province is causing confusion, arguing that his pledge doesn’t go far enough.

For weeks, those who work with the claimants have been asking the Quebec government to push the Canadian government to allow asylum seekers who have been working on the front lines in the COVID-19 pandemic to apply for immigration.

On Monday, Legault said his government would consider doing so, but on a case-by-case basis.

“Those people, they are already working on our [long term care homes],” he told reporters.
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“So how can we bring them via the normal immigration process? That’s what I’m looking at.”

READ MORE: Quebec acknowledges asylum seekers’ work on coronavirus front lines, unveils next reopening step

But those demanding action say they’re not sure what to make of the premier’s promise.

There’s a lot of confusion,” said Gaëlle Ledan, a refugee claimant from Haiti.

Ledan came to Canada as a physician three years ago, out of fear for her safety.  Despite her qualifications, though, she has been working as a nursing assistant in a private seniors’ residence since the start of the pandemic.

Because she doesn’t work at a public institution, she’s not sure if she would be eligible to apply for landed immigrant status.

“What will be the requirement to choose people?” she wanted to know.  “My biggest concern, you know, after the COVID-19. (is) if they reject my claim and I have to go back to Haiti.”

Lawyer Fabrice Vil, a lawyer and social entrepreneur who has also been speaking out in support of refugee claimants, said he’s cautiously optimistic about the premier’s comments, but has concerns.

READ MORE: Asylum seekers on the front line in Quebec’s COVID-19 crisis

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“We’ve been told that there will be an analysis conducted on a case-by-case basis,” he told Global News, “but we don’t know the criteria upon which the analysis will be made.”

According to Franz André of the Non-status Action Committee, it’s not only workers in public seniors’ residences who are putting their lives in danger by working in high risk conditions in the coronavirus pandemic.

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He said after Legault’s statements during a COVID-19 briefing at Place des Arts, he’s been deluged with calls from workers in other sectors also demanding to be considered.

“They’re asking, ‘why not me?'” he said.  “‘I’ve been working as a security agent at the hospital, I’ve been working at the [seniors’ residence], I’ve been working at the food processing plant where half the workers are contaminated’ and so on.
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“So there’s so many cases, how are they going to do it case by case?”

Ledan says all she is asking for is a bit of understanding and a realization that asylum seekers are filling a pressing need.

“Everyone at some point in their life has a problem and needs to seek solution, needs help and needs compassion,” she pointed out.

“So that’s why we are here.  We’re not here to take people’s place.  We’re here to help, and we are not illegal.”