Allow War-Traumatized Kids from Gaza to Live With Parents in Canada

Allow War-Traumatized Kids from Gaza to Live With Parents in Canada

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Matthew Behrens started this petition to Marco Mendicino (Immigration Minister) and

Hazem is 11, and has not seen his father in 35 months. He can only sleep with this pillow. ‘I smell you in it, so I feel safe, so I can sleep because you are next to me.’” He also told his father, ‘Please, Dad, do not get too old, for I want to hug you like the last time I saw you.’ Hazem's father is part of a group of in-Canada refugees from Gaza who simply want to help their families leave war-ravaged Gaza and immediately reunite here in Canada while their permanent residence applications are processed – a humanitarian principle Canada has repeatedly committed itself to but often failed to deliver. The processing time otherwise could be an average of 39 months. That's on top of the 35 months they have already been apart.

At least a dozen convention refugees in Canada have been separated from their loved ones in war-ravaged Gaza for more than two years. Without an immediate, positive intervention, they face an additional separation of almost 3.5 years. They are traumatized children yearning for a parent’s comforting hugs or dreaming of a safe playground without bomb craters. They are spouses unable to build lives together. They are families for whom each moment apart is a cruel punishment. 

We are calling on Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) Minister Marco Mendicino to urgently enact special immigration measures (including, but not limited to, the blanket issuance of Early Entrance Temporary Resident Permits or Temporary Resident Visas) to immediately reunite these families. The best interests of affected children and Canada’s commitment to family reunification demand urgent action on these cases. It would be unconscionable to leave them in Gaza for at least another three years after UN Secretary-General António Guterres declared, "If there is a hell on earth, it is the lives of children in Gaza.”     

Canada has a history of enacting such measures in response to humanitarian crises. Recently, IRCC announced a temporary residence public policy for in-Canada families of the victims of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 tragedies. Last September, similar assistance was extended to those with loved ones affected by the horrific Beirut explosion. Following the December, 2004 tsunami in Indonesia, Canada waived fees and granted priority processing to hundreds of affected permanent resident applicants. 

The current conditions in Gaza constitute a humanitarian crisis that UNICEF concludes “adds to existing vulnerabilities and [is] likely to increase poverty, vulnerability and loss of livelihoods exacerbating an already dire situation.” Shortages of food, fuel, clean water, and medicine, compounded by extensive infrastructure damage, and a trauma that is particularly devastating for children and young couples, are just part of the daily life endured by separated family members who could begin the path to health and healing once reunited in Canada as they await processing of their permanent residency applications.

Coupled with these poor conditions is the fragile security situation in Gaza which, the Government of Canada acknowledges, “could deteriorate with little or no notice.” On May 28, 2021, Global Affairs Canada listed the Gaza Strip as a place to which one should “avoid all travel” due to “the possible resumption of armed hostilities.”

In early June, 2021, Canada granted Early Entrance Temporary Resident Permits to the Gaza-based husband and children of Ottawa Palestinian refugee Jihan Qunoo, who fled Gaza in 2019. The conditions faced by Qunoo’s family are no different than those impacting this group of refugees from Gaza. Since June, 8 other separated Palestinian families have won permits.

We call on the Minister to immediately enact whatever measures are necessary to issue early entrance temporary resident permits or temporary resident visas to allow similar family reunification in the cases of in-Canada Palestinian refugees who have been found to be persons in need of protection and who have submitted permanent residence applications. Such a policy must be flexible enough to also include those in-Canada Palestinian refugee claimants who, following successful hearings, submit permanent resident applications during the remainder of 2021.

While the numbers of those who would benefit from such measures are modest, the positive difference it will make in all of their lives is huge.

On October 5, 2020, Minister Mendicino tweeted: "Our government strongly believes in the importance of keeping families together—particularly during difficult times. Now, more than ever, family reunification is an important component of Canada’s immigration system.” 

Answering this call to reunite in-Canada Palestinian refugee families with children and spouses facing such difficult times while stuck in Gaza will help give true life to that commitment.

 

 

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At 25,000 signatures, this petition becomes one of the top signed on Change.org!