Refugee claimant? Go to any province but N.L., advocate says
The executive director of the Refugee Immigrant Advisory Council in St. John's says people seeking refuge in Canada would be better off in a different province than Newfoundland and Labrador.
Jose Rivera said while the province is a great place to live, there are not many options available for refugee claimants, and he advises people arriving in St. John's it would be better for them to go to larger provinces, and even P.E.I. or Nunavut.
"There is a huge lack of support, there [are] no refugee lawyers in town, there are no community supports prepared to help refugee claimants as someone really requires," Rivera said.
"The refugee claim process is very taxing, very emotional, demanding, and, of course, financial."
A refugee is, in general terms, someone who has been approved by government to become a landed immigrant, while a refugee claimant is in legal limbo waiting for federal approval.
'Not enough critical mass'
Rivera said claimants would be better off in different cities in Canada, depending on where they're arriving from.
"It is an unfortunate situation where there is no visible solution. Newfoundland is absolutely a welcoming community, no doubt about it — I've been here for 12 years, I love it, I'm a Newfoundlander by choice — but there is almost nothing that you can do," he told the St. John's Morning Show in a recent interview.
"There is not enough critical mass to have lawyers in place and to have international communities in place, we are so few."
Rivera added there has been a declining number of people seeking refugee status in Newfoundland and Labrador since the 1980s, and the reason is change in the federal immigration regulations and an increase of restrictions.
While it's harder than ever for refugee claimants to get into Canada, Rivera added it's also harder for them to bring family, including spouses and children, over with them.
Rivera came to Canada as a landed refugee from Columbia in 2002 and didn't have to worry about filing paperwork once he arrived.