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Immigration Minister Sean Fraser

Immigration measures for Sudanese nationals kicked in April 30; Fraser looking at ‘next step’

Tuesday, May 02, 2023 @ 2:49 PM | By Cristin Schmitz


Ottawa says that special measures it announced April 24 to support Sudanese nationals temporarily in Canada, and who can’t go home given Sudan’s burgeoning armed conflict, were put in place by the federal government  April 30.

In an April 29 announcement, the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said that, as of April 30, Sudanese nationals in Canada may apply to extend their stay or change their status as a visitor, student or temporary worker, free of charge.    

The move includes free open work permits that will give Sudanese nationals temporarily in Canada access to the labour market and greater flexibility to support themselves while they are here.

IRCC said that because some Sudanese nationals outside Canada who are applying for permanent residence may not have access to their Sudanese travel documents, it is waiving the requirement to hold a passport or travel document to be approved for a permanent resident visa to come to Canada.

The measures are in addition to the fee waivers for passports and travel documents for Canadians and permanent residents of Canada in Sudan, and the government’s announced prioritization April 24 of completed applications already in IRCC’s system from people in Sudan seeking temporary and permanent residence.

IRCC said it has deployed additional officers to the region to help those already on the ground with immigration-related operations.

The Canada Border Services Agency has also temporarily stopped removals to Sudan in light of the violence and civil unrest that has grown since April 15 when an armed conflict broke out between rival factions of Sudan’s military government, killing hundreds and injuring thousands of people, while forcing thousands more to seek refuge outside the country.

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser

Updating reporters on Parliament Hill May 1 and May 2, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said “we know that there’s going to be more work to do” with respect to immigration and refugees.

Fraser said he met with leaders from the Sudanese Canadian community May 1 “to discuss some of what we’ve done. What we’re seeing right now is the urgent processing that needed to be done to allow people to leave Sudan. It has been going very well. For example, all of the people who needed their proof of citizenship processed, one hundred per cent had been completed in a very quick turnaround. We’ve been processing as a priority every application in the system that has impacted a Sudanese national.”

Fraser said “the next step is going to require us, not only to process the travel documents people may need to leave Sudan or to come to Canada, but to identify pathways for people who have been impacted.”

He cited estimates that there could be 800,000 people forced to flee. The concerns expressed to the immigration minister by the Sudanese Canadian community “were to make sure that we understand the impact on vulnerable people, and particularly the impact on loved ones and family members of Sudanese Canadians who are here and are watching their loved ones face horrific circumstances,” Fraser said.

“So the next step that we’ll be looking for will be identifying how we can create pathways for people who find themselves in need of protection, with some kind of a tie to Canada, and that work is underway,” he advised. “And I expect, as we continue to have conversations with the Canadian Sudanese community, we’ll have more to say over the next number of weeks.”

With respect to IRCC’s announced measures for Sudanese nationals already in Canada, Fraser said “we’re going to be flexible in allowing them to transition between study permits or work permits or visitor visas, as may be required, so the people who are here can continue to live life with minimal interruptions. In addition, we are priority processing all of the applications that are in our inventory at IRCC, and we have been working to accelerate the processing so people who are awaiting to come to Canada will be able to do it in a more expedited way and to have the fees waived ... along the way.”

In an update on evacuations from Sudan of Canadians and permanent residents, and their families, Global Affairs Canada said that as of April 30, almost 550 people were airlifted by six Canadian evacuation flights from the Wadi Sayyidna Air Base, north of Khartoum, from April 27 to 29.

Of these people, about 175 were Canadians and permanent residents. In addition, more than 210 Canadian citizens and permanent residents left on flights organized by Canada’s allies and international partners. In total, between evacuation flights organized by Canada and others, approximately 400 Canadians and permanent residents were moved out of Sudan. Dozens of Canadians departed by other means, Global Affairs Canada said.

The foreign affairs department said that as of April 29, because of the dangerous conditions at the Wadi Sayyidna airfield, and in concert with decisions by such allies as the U.K., Ottawa ended evacuation flights, and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel left the airfield. The CAF has two CC-130 Hercules aircraft, one C-177 Globemaster and one CC-150 Polaris in the area, which conducted evacuation flights  and moved military personnel around in the region.

“We remain committed to supporting the mission to aid Canadian citizens in their time of need and continue to plan with our partners for other extraction options,” Global Affairs Canada said.

“At this time, we are currently redirecting efforts for evacuation coordination to Port Sudan. [Canadian naval vessels] HMCS Montreal and MV Asterix remain in close vicinity to the port, and are prepared for direct support to the operation and will remain on station in the short term as our allies develop options for Port Sudan evacuations.”

Defence Minister Anita Anand

Defence Minister Anita Anand

The federal government said it is exploring options for both air evacuation as well as “ground and seaport extraction options,” especially at Port Sudan, Sudan’s main seaport on the Red Sea.

“Canada and our allies are continually assessing how we can assist our citizens in leaving Sudan from various locations,” Defence Minister Anita Anand told a Parliament Hill news conference April 30. She said there were roughly 230 Canadians still seeking assistance and information through Global Affair Canada.

Global Affairs Canada said it “strongly” encouraged everyone to avoid travelling to the Wadi Sayyidna airfield because of the deteriorating security situation.

“The security situation in Sudan remains very dangerous,” Global Affairs Canada warned May 1. “Travel routes should be assessed carefully before deciding to travel. Canadians wishing to depart Sudan by road could consider travelling to Port Sudan where commercial onward options may be available. Canada strongly recommends checking the entry requirements of onward destinations prior to travelling.”

Global Affairs Canada said members of the Canadian Armed Forces, Global Affairs Canada, and IRCC are in the region and “continue to work tirelessly to find ways to assist in evacuations.”

The department urged Canadians and permanent residents who want to leave Sudan to check travel.gc.ca as often as possible for updates, and to register with the government of Canada’s Canadians Abroad Service to receive direct updates.

Ottawa said Canadian citizens, permanent residents and family members who wish to leave Sudan can contact Global Affairs Canada’s Emergency Watch and Response Centre by:

  • calling +1 613-996-8885
  • by text message at +1 613-686-3658
  • via WhatsApp at +1 613-909-8881
  • via Telegram at Canada Emergency Abroad
  • by email at sos@international.gc.ca

If you have any information, story ideas or news tips for Law360 Canada, please contact Cristin Schmitz at cristin.schmitz@lexisnexis.ca or call 613-820-2794.