Reuniting families of refugees

The right to family life and family unity under international law applies to all, including refugees. There are many government programs available in Canada that allow refugees to be reunited with their loved ones.

Photo: © UNHCR/Annie Sakkab

Many refugees leave behind spouses, children, parents or other relatives when fleeing from conflict, persecution or violence at home. Whether due to insufficient funds to enable all family members to escape together or fears associated with the risks of the journey to find safety, being separated from their loved ones inevitably leads to hardship and sometimes to tragic consequences for refugee families. It may also create serious obstacles to a refugee’s integration in a new home. There are several government programs in Canada available to refugees that enable them to be reunited with their families.

Canada has a Family Class immigration program to reunite Canadian citizens and permanent residents with their dependent family members. Refugees, as Canadian permanent residents, may also apply and benefit from this program.

Additionally, Canada has developed more flexible programs, specific to refugees, such as the One-Year Window of Opportunity Provision, which allows for extended application time for family members who were left behind, and whose whereabouts were unknown at the time of the refugee’s arrival in Canada.

Moreover, any person who qualifies as a Protected Person or who has Convention Refugee Status as determined by the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has the right to apply for permanent residence and may, at the same time, include all of their nuclear family members in their application, whether they are refugees themselves or still in their home country.

The members of a refugee’s extended family who are refugees themselves can also be sponsored under the Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) program with the help of groups of Canadians or organizations.

Family reunification leads to better integration

The heavy burden of worrying about the safety of one’s family can be overcome with efficient family reunification programs. The family is often the strongest and most effective emotional, social and economic support for a refugee who is adjusting to a new way of life and a new culture.

UNHCR Canada does not select refugees who will be resettled to Canada and is not able to intervene or influence the process of determining whether someone can be considered a refugee or if a refugee can be resettled to Canada. When resettlement places are offered by countries such as Canada, other UNHCR offices around the world in refugees’ countries of asylum will identify those at risk and submit their applications to these resettlement countries. Resettlement countries make the final decision as to whether or not a refugee will be admitted to their country.

Stay alert and report fraudsters who are offering you resettlement, financial or other kinds of assistance, fake documents or fake claims in exchange for money or other favours. All UNHCR services are free of charge. Do not trust anyone or any organization asking you to pay for the services of UNHCR or its partners.

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