Jobless and waiting on work permits, more refugees come forward
MONTREAL -- More refugees and asylum seekers are coming forward to say they are being forced onto welfare after losing their jobs because their work permit renewals are taking too long to process.
Jean-Willy Ozerus loved his job at Adonis Supermarket on Ste-Catherine Street – until he was fired last week.
"It's not good," said Ozerus, who came to Canada in the summer of 2017, along with thousands of others seeking asylum.
He's been working while waiting for his hearing and applied to renew his work permit before it expired. The permits, though, are taking several months to be renewed and not all employers know that while refugee claimants wait for their papers, they can legally keep working.
"They don't really know the laws, they don't know about the issue," explained Frantz Andre of Comité d'action des personnes sans statut, a group fighting for non-status people.
In a statement, Metro, which owns a majority stake in Adonis Supermarket, said:
"We do know that employees are still legally allowed to work while waiting for permit renewals ("implied status"), however, these are often complex situations. The law imposes strict penalties for employers who employ workers without status, but no other information than Immigration Canada's processing times are available to the employer."
According to Immigration Canada, the wait time is 99 days, but for many, it's taking much longer.
Ozerus is one of the dozens of refugee claimants who have been fired or are facing losing their jobs, say local organizations.
"What we've been hearing is people being threatened to lose their jobs, some people losing their jobs, some people not being able to pay rent, and it's quite worrisome," said Jenny Jeanes of Action Refugies Montreal, a group working with local refugees.
After CTV contacted Adonis about the situation, Ozerus said he was re-hired and returned to work on Tuesday.