Recent Activities of the Plight of Eritrean Refugee
The Plight of Eritrean Refugee Committee at St. Nicholas church was created to help address the issues that Eritrean refugees face once they leave Eritrea. The Committee was created with a group of volunteers led by Father Vittorio to work in conjunction with the Office of Refugees Archdioceses of Toronto (O.R.A.T).In November, 2009 , the group organized a conference – The Plight of Eritrean Refugees
where various speakers from agencies and government spoke about issues related to immigration and refugee cases. The main focus of the conference included:
- speeding the process for Eritreans who have applied for refugee status
- helping end a mounting crisis that has left thousands stranded in camps in Kenya, Egypt, Sudan and Libya
- alerting the public and federal government about the situation
- urging the public and federal government to condemn the actions of countries that violate the safety and basic human rights of these refugees and to call on the international community to take action so that Eritrean refugees are protected.
- urging the government to increase the number of government and privately sponsored refugees to Canada and ensure the fairness of eligibility requirements of Eritrean refugee claims.
Working with the O.R.A.T. office has given us the tools to connect with the other agencies and express our concerns that Eritrean refugee have encountered. This includes meeting with the Canadian Council for Refugees as well as meeting with the Minister Responsible for Citizenship and Immigration. Recently our committee attended a meeting held with the Minister and the Iraqi community. The focus of the meeting was to help increase the private sponsorship for Iraqi refugees. Father Vittorio had an opportunity to request that the Minister address the problems faced by Eritrean and other African refugees whose processes are held up in the Nairobi Immigration office. The Minister committed to visiting and helping address those issues.
On September the 9th, the committee held an information session for Eritreans who wish to participate in private sponsorships and learn about other methods of bringing Eritreans to Canada. The participation was high enough for the committee to consider having these sessions every month or two months.
The committee also recently sent a petition letter to the Minister congratulating him on the significant changes he has made in the sponsorship process for the Iraqi minorities – in particular reducing the waiting list time to six months and the additional generous increase for Canada’s target relating to Iraqi refugee applicants. Inspired by this commitment the letter expressed the following concerns:
- appealing to the Canadian values of compassion and hospitality, for the waiting time in the visa posts in Nairobi, Accra, Abidjan, Pretoria and elsewhere in Africa be shortened to a decent limit. Potentially, opening two to four additional posts in Africa will be a more effective solution.
- Increasing the rate of approval throughout the African continent to be raised to a reasonable level. At times, 80% and even 90% of applications of Africans are rejected. While there is a limit to Canada’s hospitality, the level of approval from Africa is far lower than any other continent, even though Africa has the largest number of refugees in the world.
- The European Union’s support to the Northern African countries in impeding refugees from crossing their territories and migrating towards Europe. For instance, Libya has recently built large prisons in the hinterland, with Italian funds, where it recently relegated hundreds of Eritrean refugee claimants.
We have a lot of work to do and as community can find ways of continually advocating for Eritrean Refugees. If you would like to volunteer or know more about our initiative please contact Father Vittorio by email at email@example.com or phone at (416)653-2847.