Refugee assistance may suffer in cuts
Staffing at the Citizenship and Immigration Canada office in Charlottetown is going to be cut from three workers to one, CBC News has learned.
The provincial manager's position and a settlement officer's position working with refugees have been eliminated as of June 1, say department officials.
CIC provides services for refugees in their first year, and more than 60 new refugees are expected to arrive on the Island in 2012. Currently, refugees looking for services must call a 1-800 number for an appointment. Walk-ins have not been allowed at the office in years.
Interpreter Madan Kumar Giri helps people in the Bhutanese community. He said getting his last clients' appointment took two weeks.
"Even when there were three people," said Giri.
"But when there will be only one, especially the refugee immigrants will suffer a lot to make a different appointment and to solve the problem."
It's not clear whether appointments will even be permitted after the cuts.
An email from CIC said "some of those smaller locations will be responsible for liaising with the provinces and stakeholders but will not be open to the public."
Dan Doran, a past president of the board of directors of the P.E.I. Association for Newcomers, has direct experience with refugees. He works with a refugee sponsorship committee with the Diocese of Charlottetown and was the CIC supervisor at the Charlottetown office until 2005.
"You can't replace a direct face in a face-to-face meeting," said Doran.
"Sure you can do things from a distance, but I certainly think that there's going to be something lost in the ability to provide the most effective service."
Citizenship is closing more than a dozen regional offices, including offices in Moncton, Saint John and one of two offices in Halifax. Several hundred lay-off notices have been delivered across the country.