Hundreds of frustrated Iranians living in Canada and abroad are urging the federal government to explain why their permanent-residency applications have faced what they describe as unreasonable delays.
Affected Iranians took to Twitter in recent days, using the hashtag #DelayedIranianApplications, to describe the alleged discrimination by the Canadian government against their permanent-residency applications. They are concerned the Canadian government is holding up Iranian immigration applications after U.S. President Donald Trump issued a travel ban on people from Iran last year.
Their online campaign was accompanied by an open letter from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), which demanded Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen immediately address the reports of “systemic discrimination.”
“We will work with the Iranian community to marshal the legal effort to investigate and remedy any discrimination. We urge your ministry to announce immediate remedial steps to assure Iranians that Canada takes these allegations very seriously,” CCLA executive director Michael Bryant wrote.
Former NDP leader Tom Mulcair has also written Mr. Hussen and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale on behalf of Iranian applicants in his riding, saying “a roadblock has been placed in their paths, causing them significant prejudice.”
In a joint statement on Monday, Mr. Hussen and Mr. Goodale said they appreciate the frustration of some Iranian applicants, adding that the government is committed to “fair and non-discriminatory” immigration procedures.
“Our ability to complete these screenings depends on receiving information from their country of citizenship in a timely way. The time it has taken to receive information has affected processing times for some applicants with Iranian citizenship,” the joint statement said.
Public Safety and Immigration officials will meet with the Iranian Canadian Congress (ICC) on Thursday to discuss the matter. ICC president Bijan Ahmadi said his organization is concerned the delays may be related to the U.S. travel ban, but hesitated to jump to conclusions as officials work to identify the cause of the problem.
Montreal lawyer Vincent Valai is representing about 200 of the affected Iranian applicants − mostly students and recent graduates of Canadian universities. He said most of his clients have been waiting double the anticipated processing time, as their permanent-residency applications linger at the mandatory security-screening stage.
“I feel that this is a systemic issue,” Mr. Valai said.
“I don’t understand why they’re singling out Iranians. I’m wondering if there’s a policy involved on which they’re basing their investigation in order to reach a decision”
For instance, Mr. Valai said some of his clients who applied for permanent residency through the Express Entry program for skilled immigrants have been waiting 20 months for their applications to be approved, despite the fact the government’s website says 80 per cent of cases are processed in six months or less.
One of Mr. Valai’s clients, Arash Iranzad, moved to Canada from Iran in 2011 to complete his master’s in computer science at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont. The 30-year-old engineer submitted his own and his wife’s application for permanent residency in July, 2015, at which point he said the estimated processing time was 16 months. Thirty-two months later, his pregnant wife is about to give birth as their applications remain in limbo at the security-check stage.
“It’s a great source of stress for me. Every day that I wake up, every night that I go to bed, I think about it,” Mr. Iranzad said.
All immigrants aged 18 years or older must undergo background checks by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). More than 4,000 Iranian cases are currently in the CBSA security-check inventory, of which 1,038 are permanent resident applications, according to Public Safety. The government said it will review the security-check process with CBSA to ensure it is working as efficiently as possible.