Letter: Uncap private sponsorship of refugees from Israel

Far from Home

CPJ wrote to John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, asking that the federal government uncap the number of refugees from Israel that can be privately sponsored to Canada. The cap is currently set at 350 places per year. Today, about 42,000 African refugees and asylum seekers are living in Israel, mainly from Eritrea and Sudan. Instead of detention and deportation, many of these refugees could be sponsored to come to Canada.

Letter

July 2016

Re: Private Sponsorship of Refugees in Israel to Canada

Dear Mr. McCallum,

Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) writes today to ask that you uncap the number of refugees from Israel that can be privately sponsored to Canada.

CPJ promotes public justice in Canada by shaping key public policy debates through research and analysis, publishing and public dialogue. CPJ encourages citizens, leaders in society and governments to support policies and practices which reflect God’s call for love, justice and environmental flourishing.

Today, about 42,000 African refugees and asylum seekers are living in Israel, mainly from Eritrea and Sudan. Israel’s policies of detention and deportation combined with the lack of stable legal status and restricted access to economic and social rights means that these individuals are living in constant fear and uncertainty without safety and security.

Until last year, the uncapped Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH) private sponsorship to Canada gave many refugees in Israel the option of having a safe and secure future in Canada. However, the capping of private sponsorship to 350 places per year for Israel has severely limited this option. Hundreds of Canadians that are interested in sponsoring refugees from Israel have been told by SAHs to return in 2018, as the waiting lists of interested applicants far exceeds the number of places. We are writing to ask that you return to the previous system by uncapping the number of refugees who can be sponsored from Israel.

The decision to cap the number for Israel comes at a time when Israel’s policies towards African refugees have significantly deteriorated. While Israel has implemented policies of prolonged detention since 2012, over the last two years, Israeli authorities have been using detention to encourage refugee detainees to “consent” to “voluntary” deportation, either to their home or third countries such as Uganda and Rwanda. Israel has completed secret agreements with Uganda and Rwanda, reportedly selling weapons and providing money in return for the commitment to take in refugees from Israel.

UNHCR, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch all believe that under an ultimatum of prison, consent to be deported can never be considered voluntary. Research conducted by these organizations includes interviews with returnees, who report widespread harassment and violence upon arrival to such third countries. These countries act as stepping stones as refugees continue dangerous journeys seeking safety in Europe or elsewhere. According to the Israeli Ministry of Interior, over 10,000 individuals have been deported under this policy.

Instead of detention and deportation, many of these refugees could be privately sponsored to Canada. Eritreans in Israel have a strong network in Canada, both of family and friends who are now residents and citizens of Canada. Other potential sponsors are Canadians who are aware of the plight of refugees in Israel. Allowing such individuals to work with SAHs to sponsor refugees in Israel in larger numbers, without a cap, would provide hope and a chance for a safe and productive future for hundreds of people.

We thank you very much for your time and consideration of this matter and look forward to your reply.

Sincerely,

Rev. James C. Dekker
Chairman of the Board

Joe Gunn
E
xecutive Director

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