July 23, 2024

While thousands of people are killed and Gaza is reduced to rubble by Israeli attacks, a Canadian man is fighting desperately to get a new special visa so that his extended family can escape. Ahmed, a 21- year-old Vancouver resident, has been struggling in what he calls the bureaucratic maze of Canada’s new immigration policy.

The temporary, three-year program enables Canadian citizens and permanent residents to bring their extended families from Gaza.

“These new measures provide a humanitarian pathway to safety and recognize the importance of keeping families together given the ongoing crisis,” said Marc Miller, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship in a statement announcing the policy.

However, Ottawa was immediately criticized for revealing that it only intended to grant temporary visas to no more than 1,000 Palestinians fleeing Gaza.

“This cap not only restricts access to safety for thousands of Palestinians in dire need but also adds a layer of injustice to an already strained situation,” said Ahmed, who didn’t want his last name published.

Humanitarian organizations and advocates, including the National Council of Canadian Muslims, criticized the cap.

Miller defended the policy saying that there is no strict cap on the applications.

The conflict that started on Oct. 7, following a Hamas-led attack on Israel which killed an estimated 1,200 people, has led to the deaths of more than 30,000 Palestinians.

“When the Canadian government announced the initiative, we were hopeful,” Ahmed said, recounting the initial optimism that quickly gave way to frustration. He described resorting to social media platforms, particularly those of organizations like the National Council of Canadian Muslims, to stay updated on the process.

Ahmed and his family also expressed dissatisfaction over what they call unnecessary documentation for the immigration procedure. He shared how the requirements on the temporary residence application form ranged from detailed employment history to comprehensive medical records and social media account information.

“There is just a heart break on every level of this process,” he said.

The situation of Ahmed’s extended family — which includes his aunt and orphaned children who do not have passports — worsens their difficulties.  Ahmed expressed disillusionment with Canada’s role, criticizing what he called disorganization and a lack of clarity.

“The whole thing feels very amateurly put together,” he said, questioning the government’s commitment to prioritizing the safety and well-being of vulnerable populations.

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