Victims of war will arrive in Ontario by next weekend
OTTAWA – Canadians are coming forward to offer their homes to Kosovar refugees even as military officials scramble to airlift about 5,000 to this country by the end of the week.
The refugees, who are expected to land at CFB Trenton by the weekend, will be arriving in the country on ministerial permits, but will be allowed to claim refugee status.
It will be the biggest influx of refugees to this country since 26,000 “boat people” arrived after the Vietnam War ended in 1975.
Sources say Immigration Minister Lucienne Robillard is directing her officials who have been dispatched to Macedonia to give preference to those who would meet the criteria for refugee status.
Immigration lawyers say they fully expect all those arriving here will immediately seek that status.
Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy indicated concerned Canadians who are calling aid agencies to offer space in their homes, or accommodation at summer cottages, could eventually be taken up on the offer.
Although Axworthy said the refugees will want to return to their homes in Kosovo, he, too, acknowledged they will be allowed to seek refugee status.
Ministerial permits set aside immigration law and allow them into Canada without the usually required documentation.
Max Berger, a Toronto immigration lawyer who has represented refugee claimants from the former Yugoslavia, said it would be only logical for the Kosovars to seek refugee status when they arrive in Canada.
“It’s inconceivable that they wouldn’t do that,” he said. “I would expect they would take advantage of the Canadian law,” which would give them a chance to stay in Canada long-term.
“There’s nothing to stop them from making a claim and still returning home – this way they hedge their bets.”
He said attempts by Ottawa to portray the project as sanctuary before the Kosovars go home ignores the reality of immigration law in this country.
Gilles Latour of Care Canada said his agency had already received several dozen offers of accommodation in the 24 hours since the refugee operation was publicized.
He advised those who have been calling offering clothes, blankets or personal hygiene products to wait until the refugees arrive.
Max Berger is a native of Winnipeg, Manitoba and was educated at the University of Manitoba and York University. Mr. Berger is a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, Canada. He has represented immigration clients from all corners of the world and in every area of immigration law.
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