Canada has announced new measures to aid those affected by the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria.
On Saturday, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser announced at a press conference in Mississauga, Ont., that Turkish and Syrian temporary residents in Canada can apply to extend their status with no charge, effective March 29. They can also apply for open work permits that will allow them to stay in Canada for up to three years.
Canada will also waive the need to have a passport or travel document to be approved for a permanent resident visa, given some of those affected may have lost the documents. Fraser also said that the fees for temporary passports and emergency travel documents will be waived for those returning to Canada, as well as for Canadian citizenship certificates and permanent resident travel documents.
“Today we are introducing new measures that make it easier for Turkish and Syrian nationals to extend their stay in Canada and be with their families, while continuing to work and study in a safe environment,” Fraser said in a statement.
Canada has been processing permanent and temporary residence applications from those affected by the earthquakes on a priority basis. As of Feb. 8, close to 16,000 applications from Syria and Turkey were in progress, with 1,700 of those (750 permanent, 920 temporary residents) involving people from the impacted areas, according to the government.
“For those who apply for a temporary residency visa, we will be able to treat their applications with priority processing,” Fraser said at the press conference.
“(There are) special measures that we’re implementing, internal to our system, to provide guidance to our officers to facilitate the approval of their cases so they can come to Canada.”
Fraser said the government has learned from its efforts to accept people escaping Ukraine after the Russian invasion of their country last year. The government offered temporary protection to large numbers of people from Ukraine much faster than it could through ordinary refugee resettlement programs, he said.
“We’re using a new strategy to help facilitate the arrival of people who find themselves in those situations (who) ordinarily may not be approved to come to Canada,” he said.
“The specific mechanism that we’re using involves the use of advanced analytics within IRCC system to identify people who have been impacted by the earthquake and to render a positive eligibility decision for a whole group of applicants at once.”
More than 50,000 have been killed and millions displaced from the 7.8 magnitude earthquake on Feb. 6 that hit the region, as well from its powerful aftershocks.
As of March 10, about 600 Syrian and 6,400 Turkish residents in Canada had temporary status that is set to expire within six months, according to the government.
As of Feb. 24, $50 million was announced by the federal government in support of the earthquake response.
— With files from the Canadian Press