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  4. Canada offers three-year visas to individuals in war-torn Gaza with family ties | Know why

Canada offers three-year visas to individuals in war-torn Gaza with family ties | Know why

Canada's Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marc Miller announced the temporary visa programme on Thursday in light of the devastating situation in Gaza. More than 20,000 Palestinians have been killed, tens and thousands wounded and over a million displaced.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Ottawa (Canada) Published on: December 22, 2023 12:10 IST
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Image Source : AP Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Canada has rolled out new immigration measures including temporary visas from individuals in war-torn Gaza who are related to Canadians, in addition to Israelis and Palestinians already living in the country. Canada's Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marc Miller announced on Thursday that the government will grant three-year temporary visas for extended family members of Canadian citizens or permanent residents living in Gaza, CTV News reported.

Noting that several Canadians are concerned about the safety and well-being of their loved ones living in Gaza, Miller said, "So they can come to Canada and be reunited with their family members residing here." However, he cautioned that Canada has no assurances in connection with further evacuations from the besieged Strip controlled by Hamas.

The Canadian Minister said that the new programme will come into effect by January 9 and promised that the upcoming holidays will not impact his department's work on this issue. This comes as the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, entering its third month, has devastated Gaza with 20,000 Palestinians killed, tens and thousands wounded and over a million displaced.

Who are eligible candidates for this programme?

The eligible family members who can apply for the temporary visa programme include the spouse, common-law partner, child (regardless of age), grandchild, siblings, parent or grandparent of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, as well as their immediate family members. The required documentation includes proof of relationship and biometrics.

The federal government of Canada will also make fee-exempt study permits or open work permits for immediate family members of Canadian citizens or permanent citizens available effectively from Thursday, provided they currently live in Canada and left Israeli and Palestinian territories on or after October 7.

"Israelis and Palestinians already in Canada who feel unsafe returning home at this time will also be eligible for the fee-exempt study or open work permits," Miller said, adding that the existing and new permanent residency applications for Palestinians will be given priority processing due to "unliveable" situation in Gaza.

Announcing the measures for Canadians affected by the conflict in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Miller said, "The ongoing war between Israel and Hamas has created a humanitarian catastrophe of an unprecedented scale in Gaza." 

Why was such a decision taken?

Earlier, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the government has facilitated more than 600 Canadian citizens and their families in fleeing Gaza, but stressed that more work was needed. "Obviously, it's an extremely difficult situation," he said.

Trudeau's Liberal Party faced increasing pressure from families and the New Democratic Party (NDP) to find special pathways to bring extended family members of Canadians out of the region. Miller said that Canada's latest move could result in hundreds of family members of Canadians making their way in the country.

"New Democrats welcome this long overdue announcement by the federal government. Families have been waiting for this day for too long," said NDP MP Jenny Kwan in a statement. Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) have also welcomed the development, while continuing to urge Canada to press for an immediate ceasefire, lamenting that the measures "are too late for many Canadians whose family members have been killed in Gaza since the war began."

Canada had supported Israel's right of self-defence when the war broke out. However, as the war escalated and thousands were killed in Gaza, the Trudeau government broke away from its earlier position and stance from the US by calling for a "sustainable ceasefire" to protect civilians and facilitate humanitarian aid. An estimated 200 individuals registered with Global Affairs Canada remain trapped in the war zone as officials remain in contact with consular staff.

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