Category Archives: Other Countries

Environmental Overview – Nairobi

The following is a summary of the Environmental Overview of the immigration functions at the Canadian High Commission in Naiorbi (the “Environmental Overview”).  The Environmental Overview was prepared as part of the Citizenship and Immigration Canada 2013-2014 planning exercise, and is current as of January 2013.

Areas in blockquote are direct passages from the Environmental Overview.

Environment

The Canadian High Commission in Nairobi (“CIC Nairobi”) provides visa services to residents of Kenya, Burundi, Congo, Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, French Southern Territories, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mayotte, Reunion, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Many visa applicants, including senior government officials from many of the countries within Nairobi’s jurisdiction, are inadmissible for activities ranging from genocide to subversion, a factor which continues to be a bilateral irritant for Canada in the region.

There are 13 Canada Based Staff, 2 Designated Immigration Officers, 3 Immigration Program Officers, 2 Locally Engaged 06, 22 Locally Engaged 05, 4 Locally engaged 04, and 9 locally Engaged 03 working at CIC Nairobi.

With the advent of e-applications, Nairobi is now starting to benefit from the assistance of QRC in the promotion on Temporary Resident applications. However, given that bandwidth speed continues to be slow, processing e-applications currently takes significantly longer than the paper equivalent.

55,000 old applications are slated for shredding.  An additional 11,000 were to be shipped in March.

Permanent Resident Program

Category

2012 Visas Issued 2013 Visa Targets

Federal Skilled Worker

966

498

Quebec Skilled Worker

1300

1251

Provincial / Territorial Nominees

175

193

The average processing time for the above applications was between 12-18 months.

Category

2012 Visas Issued 2013 Visa Targets

Priority Family Class

1407

1514

Parents / Grant Parents

501

44

DR2

745

783

The average processing time for the Priority Family Class applications was 29 months.  It was 50 months for parents and grandparents.

In 2012, Nairobi noticed a trend of cyclical FC1 sponsorship within our Ethiopian caseload, as a majority of the current sponsors had themselves landed as spouses. These applications require closer scrutiny through interviews.

CIC-Nairobi receives dozens of R117(9)(d) cases a year. Most are approved on best interests of the child, and take 12 to 24 months to process.

Category 2012 Visas Issued

2013 Visa Targets

Government Assisted Refugee

741

1525

Government Assisted Refugee (Quebec)

102

317

Privately Sponsored Refugee

1392

2043

Average processing times for Government Assisted Refugees in 2012 was 35 months.

Some delays appear beyond CIC’s control.

Eritrea is still inaccessible to Nairobi officers due to visa issues, leading to difficulty accessing PR applicants for interview. In addition, new legislation in Eritrea has outlawed private medical practice and the poor quality of x-rays leads to repeat exams with inconclusive results, thereby delaying the processing on a number of cases.

A requirement for officers to have Hazardous Environment Training led to the cancellation of a scheduled refugee interview trip to Kinshasa in March 2012, and has complicated the scheduling of subsequent trips for interviews of all categories of PR applicants.

Nairobi provides itinerant PR services by undertaking regular interview trips (mainly FC, DR2 and refugees) to countries in the area of accreditation. Countries such as Somalia, Eritrea, South Sudan and the islands off the coast of the East Africa are not often visited, either for reasons of security, inaccessibility or because the low number of interviews does not justify area travel.

There are also specific issues related to refugees.

Restricted access to clients and inability to process some caseloads due to the inability to obtain visas to Eritrea, travel restrictions for security reasons for Hargeisa and Dadaab Refugee Camp and medical examination quality issues in Eritrea. Nairobi has a stagnant inventory of up to 900 individuals that the refugee team has been unable to process for several years. This is having a significant impact on the length of both the GAR and PSR processing times.

Fraud is common in both programs, mainly related to family composition and identity . Many of the PSR applicants are not registered with the UNCHR or the relevant national authority. This raises questions of identity, family composition and credibility of the refugee claim. PSR applications tend to be incomplete and identity documents are largely unreliable.

Supervision: The unit manager is expected to spend some of her time processing applications but the reality is otherwise. Considering the challenges of managing an inventory in 15 different locations, permanent staff and TD officers, liaison work with partners such as the UNHCR, 10M, HIAS, RP, clients, sponsors and NHQ, the complexity of operations in the region, the unit manager spends 90% of her time on management duties alone.

Area travel/workload: Almost 100% of applicants are interviewed by an immigration officer except for OYW cases. Area travel is constant; a minimum of one week out of three is needed to meet targets and reduce processing times (7 cases per day/average) Challenges include travel to distant and remote areas, long distance between client locations, basic facilities and accommodation, long travel and work hours, risk of compassion fatigue and being away from their families. Area trips often involve week-end travel, overnight flights, poor living and dietary conditions in the camps and threats to personal security. Assessments by Mission Security are required prior to most trips.

Temporary Resident Program

Category

Service Standard

Actual Processing Time

Visitors

5 days (VAC/e-apps), 15 days (other)

11

Students

90 days (VAC/e-apps), 120 days (other)

69 days

Work

90 days (VAC/e-apps), 120 days (other)

140 days

CIC-Nairobi processed 13,104 Temporary Resident Visa applications in 2012.  The acceptance rate was 52%.  CIC-Nairobi does not interview applicants.

A fast track system is in place to maximize client services and to alleviate issues with last minute applications and officials travelling at short notice. Urgent, sensitive, high profile, H&C and diplomatic applications are identified through advance notification (heads up/visa referrals) by other sections of the mission or our Client Service Unit. These are brought to the Unit supervisor for immediate review and appropriate action. This system has been working extremely well, and most applications are processed within a few hours. Referral procedures have been revised and have been distributed to HOMs and OGD program managers in Nairobi’s territory.

Challenges:

The size of our region demands the shipment of applications by bag or by commercial courier, which increases processing time. To address this, Nairobi uses phone and e-mail as the preferred means of communication. Nairobi has also partnered with VFS to provide VAC services in Nairobi and in Kampala. The VAC rollout in 2013/2014 will see the provision of VAC services in three additional countries in Nairobi’s territory.

Fraud is pervasive in the region, particularly in the caseloads from Congo-Brazza and Congo-Kinshasa, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania. Refusal rates remain high. Verification is problematic. Fraudulent documents are easily obtained in most countries in the region, corruption is common, and the large geographic area makes in-person verifications very difficult.

Threats against Canadian security via the TR movement have not been evident though care is taken given the local presence of organizations of concern (such as AI-Shabaab). Somalia provides a low influx of applications as we do not recognize their travel document (passport). Somalis can only be accepted to travel to CDA through a Temporary Resident Permit- TRP and Single Journey Travel Document.

2013 Initiatives

Temporary Resident Electronic applications are now received in GCMS/Nairobi since December 2012. Although the numbers received to date are manageable and e-apps processing reduces the need for manual entry of information in the system, it has already had an impact on TRU’s operations since its introduction. Currently, processing an e-app in GCMS takes significantly longer (20 minutes compared to 5 for physical file application).

Implementation of a new VAC contract and the implementation of biometric service is planned in Nairobi’s area of accreditation. It is anticipated that biometrics will impact the number of applications received from the DRC, as there are no plans for a VAC office or biometric collection facilities in that country. As a result, Congolese citizens will have to travel to Nairobi or the nearest VAC (Kampala, Uganda) to provide biometrics. A similar situation a ies to the other nationals in our territory for whom biometric information is mandatory.

Sending Refugees to a Safe Third Country

Image from The Big Picture

Australia has “boat people” issues that far exceed Canada’s.  According to The Economist, in 2010 134 boats carrying 6,535 refugee-claimants landed off the shores of Australia.  The Australian government has introduced many policies to reduce those numbers, including the controversial detention of most sea-arrival refugee claimants on Christmas Island.

Another potential policy, which was recently struck down by the High Court of Australia, was to exchange certain refugee claimants with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees recognized refugees in Malaysia.   Under the arrangement, Australia would send 800 seaborne asylum-seekers to join tens-of-thousands of others currently queuing in Malaysia to have their refugee claims heard by the UNHCR.  In return, Malaysia would be allowed to send 4,000 people who the UNHCR had recognized as being refugees, and who were awaiting resettlement in a third country, to Australia.

On August 31, 2011, the High Court of Australia held that the plan was invalid.   The main reason was because Malaysia is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, and is therefore not legally bound to provide the access and protections required by the convention.

Ignoring the issue of whether such a swapping proposal would be constitutional in Canada, I wonder what readers think of this approach to processing refugee claimants.

Suppose that Canada were to enter into a swapping agreement with a third-party country that was a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention.

Would you support a policy whereby Canada would transfer refugee claimants to the third party to be processed by the UNHCR, and in exchange the UNHCR would send 1-4 times that many people to Canada?