The Malta Independent 3 March 2024, Sunday
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Canada blocks refugees from moving as it deems staying in Malta a ‘durable solution’

Jacob Borg Monday, 6 July 2015, 09:30 Last update: about 10 years ago

A number of refugees in Malta who have been sponsored to move to Canada are being prevented from emigrating since Canada’s immigration authorities consider their stay in Malta to be a “durable solution” to their situation, Canadian media is reporting.

Canada may be one of the world’s largest and least-densely populated countries in the world, but its location means that it receives relatively few asylum applications – 13,450 last year.

But the country also implements a Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program through which individuals or groups can sponsor refugees from abroad – often those with relatives already living in Canada – providing them with financial and emotional support for the duration of the sponsorship.

A number of refugees who have ended up in Malta after embarking on a dangerous sea journey to flee conflict or persecution have found willing sponsors. These include 32-year-old Eritrean national Daniel Semere, who fled his native land in 2011 and who was sponsored to move to Canada by non-profit organisation Hospitality House Refugee Ministry, which is based in the city of Winnipeg, in the province of Manitoba.

In comments made to Manitoba-based newspaper The Carillon, Hospitality House’s executive director Tom Denton described Mr Semere as “an educated, capable person who could easily resettle in Canada.”

Mr Semere is fluent in English as well as Italian, and had served as an interpreter for the UNHCR while still in Libya, before fleeing to Malta as the country’s civil war escalated. But he and others living in the converted airplane hangar that houses the Ħal Far open centre find few opportunities for employment.

But his sponsorship application was rejected late last year by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, which said that Mr Semere has found a “durable solution” since he is staying in a safe country which is signatory to the Geneva Convention on Refugees.

“There are so many private-sponsorship cases I cannot start because the refugees are in Europe where, I will be told, they have a ‘durable solution’ in countries that are signatories to the Geneva Convention on Refugees,” Mr Denton said, insisting that Europe was not a durable solution for the millions of refugees across the world.

Hospitality House and the United Church of Canada have joined forces and filed a case with the Federal Court of Canada over Mr Semere and a number of other Malta-based refugees whose sponsorship application were rejected.

Mr Semere himself is set to be interviewed by a Canadian immigration officer on Wednesday.

The Canadian government often insists that it has one of the most generous refugee policies in the world, highlighting that Canada welcomes a tenth of the world’s resettled refugees.

But Mr Denton notes that the term “resettled refugees” refers to around 75,000 which are divvied up among resettlement countries annually, pointing out that this was a “drop in the bucket” when compared to the 866,000 asylum applications filed in 2014.

Hospitality House alone has to turn away some 5,000 people a year seeking sponsorship to Canada, with the number of new applications for private refugee sponsorship capped at 6,500 last year.

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