Petition to Reopen Visa Application Center (VAC) in Bangladesh
Petition to Reopen Visa Application Center (VAC) in Bangladesh
On behalf of the Bangladeshi community, this is a formal petition requesting the following key decision-makers:
- Honorable Marco E. L. Mendicino - Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship
- Mr. Benoit Pérfontaine - High Commissioner of Canada to Bangladesh
- Ms. Lynn McDonald - High Commissioner of Canada to Singapore
a planned reopening of the Visa Application Centres (VAC) in Bangladesh, primarily situated across Dhaka, Sylhet, and Chittagong.
With the statutory lockdown (March 2020) declared due to novel Coronavirus across the entire globe bringing a sudden halt to immigration procedures across multiple countries including Canada and Bangladesh, it has been an ongoing eight long, excruciating months for the affected applicants.
The objective of this petition is to bring awareness to the fact that, even though the world is still in a global pandemic, many countries around the world have opened up their offices with safety measures in place for applicants. VACs worldwide have opened up offering a limited to a full-range of services such as passport submissions and biometric appointments. Looking across the South Asian demography, Bangladesh is one of few handful nations and the ONLY country where the visa processes are handled by Singapore VO that is deemed to stay closed with no cooperation or regular interval of updates from authorities. VFS offices in countries like India, Pakistan, and the Philippines are just some that have been open and safely operational; this is a major problem.
We are desperately seeking to find any logical reasoning as to why has there not been any effort made with regular updates to notify the applicants of Bangladesh and the concerned spouses, sponsors in Canada on when VAC Bangladesh is projected to open?
Under the direction and leadership of The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister, we continue to applaud the actions steps implemented thus far to curb the spread of COVID-19. We are truly indebted. However, we also need to bring to light a large section of individuals (students, spouses, family members) coming from Visa Required countries who are severely impacted by the VAC closures. Not being able to progress their application, their passports being withheld for an unknown period, adding delays to an already prolonged process.
We want to bring your attention to some of the critical issues regarding the closures of VAC offices:
- The excessive amount of time any family has been FORCED to be separated from their loved ones compared to standard immigration processing times. Women are left helpless and forced to give birth and raise their newborn without their partners physically present, worsening postpartum depression. Therefore, children have been growing up without an important parental figure in their lives. Many important dates such as birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, funerals, graduations are being missed.
- The amount of stress, anxiety, frustration, depression, and strain this closure has put on various relationships. Mental health problems are on an exponential rise ever since COVID-19 started. Many jobs have been lost, which puts many families in dire financial situations. A combination of these factors has even caused people to contemplate suicide in Bangladesh. [COVID-19-Related Suicides in Bangladesh Due to Lockdown and Economic Factors: Case Study Evidence from Media Reports](https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7228428/
- The extended closure has forced students to adapt to incredibly inconvenient situations where online classes disrupt everyday life. Students have paid complete tuition to fulfill their dream of studying in Canada by being physically present. Instead, they don’t have access to complete physical resources that the institutions provide. Due to the lack of resources, students are not reaching their goals to the needed extent. International students pay almost triple the amount of tuition than any Canadian student for education. [Depression and anxiety among university students during the COVID-19 pandemic in Bangladesh: A web-based cross-sectional survey](https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0238162
On September 24th, 2020, the IRCC announced Canada’s intention to speed up the spousal sponsorship processing and finalize 6,000 applications each month between October and December 2020. They also increased the number of staff who will review each file by 66%. Despite the positive encouragement, there have been no updates from either one of Canada's High Commissions in Bangladesh and Singapore regarding VACs opening. Without these offices resuming full operation of services, we face a massive backlog of applications that will add undue psychological stress amongst applicants. [IRCC speeding up processing for spousal applications - Canada.ca](https://bit.ly/3eAsdJT
Bangladeshi applicants currently undergoing multiple stages in their process (needing to give biometrics, waiting on passport requests, queuing for an interview) are essentially stuck in limbo and held hostage with silence from authorities. Many applicants have been waiting anywhere between 12 to 36+ months in this already long, exhausting process.
With this petition, we are respectfully requesting the concerned authorities responsible for opening Bangladesh VAC to tactfully present concrete action steps for reopening and be transparent with the general mass by publishing periodic updates:
- Reopening of Bangladesh VAC office with proper safety precautions to prevent any further spread of COVID-19. This can be done through:
- Set-up limited appointments per day.
- Sanitization protocols to be followed by all employees in the office.
- Separation between employees and applicants via the glass window
- Passports can be sent to the office via a dedicated courier service to decrease contact between employees and applicants.
- Resumption of applicant interviews through the use of online communication platforms such as Zoom.
Any concerns about Canadians' health and safety can be put to rest because of the mandatory screening and 14-day quarantine plan for any international traveler coming into Canada. Sponsors are more than able and willing to be fully responsible for accommodating their spouses' needs while adhering strictly to a 14-day mandatory quarantine plan.
Families need to reunite and be together during these unprecedented times. VFS Global offices have been closed for far too long for anyone to endure. With our modest requests, we ask that you consider the above recommendations and start the process of reopening VFS offices in Bangladesh as soon as possible. Thank you for taking the time to read this petition, and we look forward to receiving an appropriate resolution in this cause.