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Asylum seekers want all essential workers to have a chance at permanent residency

Click to play video: 'Asylum seekers who have worked during the pandemic protest new permanent residency deal' Asylum seekers who have worked during the pandemic protest new permanent residency deal
WATCH: Asylum seekers who have worked during the pandemic protest new permanent residency deal – Aug 15, 2020

A new program announced Friday is giving asylum seekers on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis a chance at permanent residency.

But on Saturday, many migrants gathered in solidarity to send a message that too many people are excluded from the program.

“That is going to exclude maintenance workers, security, but also the other front-line workers, people working at bakeries, warehouses, grocery stores, delivery apps — unfortunately, a significant number of people are going to be left out of the program,” said Mostafa Henaway, community organizer at the Immigrant Workers Centre.

Federal Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino announced Friday that some refugee claimants — many of whom are in Quebec — working in health care will be eligible for permanent residency after mobilizing to protect Canadians at the height of the novel coronavirus crisis.

READ MORE: Asylum seekers on front lines of coronavirus crisis given chance at permanent residency

But with the number of workers left out of the program, many say the criteria is unfair.

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“We want them to know that there’s still people working hard going outside everyday making sure that we get food, make sure our buildings are secure, and they need to be accepted equally like the ones that were accepted yesterday,” says Frantz André, a spokesperson from the Action Committee for People Without Status in Montreal.

Henaway agreed.

“Everyone deserves a right at permanent residency,” Henaway said. “You recognize by giving it to a small group of people, so I think that equity will not really happen until everyone is given that chance.”

To apply for residency, claimants must have claimed asylum in Canada prior to March 13 and have spent no less than 120 hours working as an orderly, nurse or other designated occupations since then.

They must also demonstrate they have six months of experience in the profession before they can receive permanent residency and have until the end of this month to meet that requirement.

“They call them essential workers so they have to respect their efforts and give them what they deserve, they deserve their permanent residency,” says event organizer Wilner Cayo.

READ MORE: Movement seeking status for asylum seekers in essential jobs say pressure is on

The federal government said in an email statement to Global News that it has contributed more than $100 million to support the rights and welfare of migrant workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

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The Minister of Immigration’s office says it is aware of the work being done by asylum seekers on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis and will continue to support existing programs for migrants seeking permanent residency.

Advocates say a lot of the migrant workers fear being deported and they’re calling on the government to fulfill their promises.

“They’re so disappointed,” André says. “It’s been since March; promises were made and so far the only promise we get is a very small amount of what was promised.”

Members of the group say if things stay the same they will consider a strike.

“I think a strike is a good idea because then they will know and understand how important these workers are,” Henaway said.

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