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 Sean Fraser (Immigration Minister) and

Basem is a Palestinian boy living in Gaza who just turned 7 years old. But his family couldn't be together for his birthday this year for the first time. Basem and his father, Fady, were inseparable and very close until his Dad had to come to Canada as a refugee. Although they have submitted a permanent residence (PR) application, it could be another 3 to 4 years before Basem hugs his Dad again. Basem needs the Canadian government to grant him and his mother Early Admission Temporary Resident Permits to allow them to be together during their PR processing. Twelve other long-separated Palestinian refugee families from Gaza received those same permits since May, 2021, and this family deserves the same too, considering the brutal conditions that continue to exist in Gaza as well as the ongoing threat of more military violence raining down upon them.

Basem's family is one of three long-separated Palestinian families from Gaza seeking such permits.

Family reunification is a humanitarian principle Canada has repeatedly committed itself to but often failed to deliver. The average processing time is an average of 39 months. 

The aforementioned dozen convention refugees in Canada had been separated from their loved ones in war-ravaged Gaza for three tofour years. Without an immediate, positive intervention, they faced 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. 

As we have since May, 2021, we continue to call on Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) Minister Sean Fraser 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 (and the other 11 families since approved) are no different than those impacting the remaining group of refugees from Gaza. 

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.

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, then 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.

 

 

0 have signed. Let’s get to 25,000!
At 25,000 signatures, this petition becomes one of the top signed on Change.org!