Canada introduces a refugee stream for human rights defenders
The Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), Marco Mendicino, announced on July 16th a refugee stream for human rights defenders.
IRCC says the stream is to provide a safe haven for human rights defenders at risk who are fleeing persecution in their home country.
Canada aims to resettle 250 human rights defenders, including their family members, per year through the Government-Assisted Refugee Program.
Human Rights defenders promote and protect the human rights of people around the world. They put their lives at risk to condemn injustice and hold the people in power accountable.
The Canadian government will work alongside Front Line Defenders and ProtectDefenders.eu as well as other Canadian and international partners. These three organizations will work with the United Nations Refugee Agency to identify those human rights defenders most in need of protection. Canada will use these partners to identify human rights defenders who face security risks and need resettling. As well, they will work together to find solutions for human rights defenders needing protection.
The stream will focus on high-risk people such as women, LGBTQ2 rights advocates, and journalists.
Canada will help provide more options to human rights defenders needing protection so they may have a pathway to permanent residence when they cannot return to their home country.
Canada will become one of the first countries to offer a pathway like this. Canada aims to resettle 36,000 refugees in 2021, almost four times its total in 2020 of 9,200.
Individuals must be referred to the Government of Canada by the United Nations Refugee Agency to be considered for the stream. Individuals cannot apply directly for resettlement or make a claim at a Canadian embassy or mission.
Human rights defenders must meet admissibility requirements such as a medical exam and security screening to enter Canada. Individuals must be Convention refugees, meaning they are:
- outside their home country, and
- cannot return to their home country due to a strong fear of persecution based on
- political opinion, or
- membership in a particular social group (ie. gender, sexual orientation).