Renewed calls to grant residency to asylum seekers on COVID-19 front lines
MONTREAL -- There are renewed calls to grant permanent residency to asylum-seekers who’ve been working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada and Quebec.
Last month, Ottawa announced a special program that would do just that -- but it can only help about 1,000 people, and only in some sectors. Advocates say there are thousands of others risking their lives.
Since the pandemic began, Silvia Omobude has been working as an orderly in hospitals and long-term care homes – and she says she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“If I would be the one that has COVID and people are hiding or running from me… how would I feel?” Omobude said. “So in this case, I have to go.”
But a recent survey conducted for a refugee advocacy group found that out of 400 people, more than 60 per cent struggled to obtain proper healthcare – even those experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
And more than 90 per cent who wanted to use emergency daycares were refused.
"Maybe daycare workers they didn’t know that they could accept them,” said Lida Aghasi, an advocate for asylum seekers. “Some of them have been turned away, some of them – they didn’t even know that they have the right to use the daycare.”
Aghasi said people working as security guards at hospitals who ask those who visit to wear masks and wash their hands are also essential workers.
“The ones who work in grocery stores or transport – they’re essential workers,” she added.
Some say Ottawa is dragging its feet.
“We’re talking since May and we’re now in September and we still don’t have any details,” said Frantz Andre from the Action Committee for People Without Status. “We have people going through depression right now to the point of being suicidal.”
Omobude believes she will quality for permanent residency.
“I’m so glad because I’m working with COVID patients,” she said. “I’m so happy to be in this country at this time."
Advocates say they won’t stop fighting to include more people in the program.