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Canada raises cap on applications for Palestinians joining relatives

Palestinian Canadians have complained about inconsistent messaging and onerous requirements
Immigration Minister Marc Miller is lifting the cap on Palestinian who can be brought by relatives to Canada through a program that faces widespread criticism. Miller speaks during an announcement in the Foyer of the House of Commons, in Ottawa, Thursday, May 23, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Immigration Minister Marc Miller is increasing the number of applications that will be processed under a much-criticized program to reunite Palestinians with Canadian relatives.

The move comes as he testifies about measures introduced months ago that were meant to bring relatives of Canadians from conflict zones in the Gaza Strip and Sudan to safety.

The Gaza program initially had a cap of 1,000 applications that could be “accepted into processing,” but Miller is now increasing that number to 5,000, each of which can include multiple family members.

Palestinian Canadians have complained about inconsistent messaging and onerous requirements that left people unable to leave Gaza before Israel effectively closed access to Egypt.

Civil war in Sudan broke out last spring, yet family members say officials expect their relatives will not reach Canada until the end of this year, citing delays with fingerprinting and other biometric requirements

Miller is providing a briefing about both programs today at the House of Commons immigration committee.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada says it has issued 179 temporary-resident permits through the Gaza program as of April 29, but the department doesn’t know whether anyone has actually reached Canada.

In a statement, Miller said that Canada has been sending the names of approved temporary residents to Israeli and Egyptian authorities, even though they can’t currently exit the Gaza Strip.

“While movement out of Gaza is not currently possible, the situation may change at any time,” Miller said.

“With this cap increase, we will be ready to help more people as the situation evolves.”

There continue to be reports of Palestinians paying thousands of dollars to cross into Egypt amid uncertainty over their resettlement status.

Relatives in Canada say they were given mixed information from Ottawa about whether those who paid to cross could still access the Canadian program.

The Gaza program involves temporary residency permits, while the Sudan program is for permanent residency.

The NDP has accused the government of bungling both programs, and not learning from other conflict situations, such as the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021.

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