New Dependent Children Rule Could Separate Refugee Families


A change to the way that the immigration applications of children over the age of 19 will be processed by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is expected to negatively affect refugees.

It was recently announced that the CIC is changing their definition of a dependent child for the purposes of immigration applications, effective August 1, 2014.  For dependent children over the age of 19 coming to Canada with their families, a separate application for Canadian immigration will now be required.  Prior to the changes, children up to the age of 22 were eligible to apply on the family application as a dependent as long as they were not married or in a common-law relationship.

The change, making it more difficult for older children to join their families in Canada, comes at a particularly dire time for refugees. The current number of refugees worldwide has reached over 51 million people, making the current refugee crisis the largest instance of forced displacement since the Second World War.

This new regulation also means that children over the age of 19 will need to provide their own reason for requiring Canada’s protection as a refugee, and the eligibility of their parents will no longer guarantee that the dependent child over the age of 19 is also eligible.

This consequence places Canada’s new policy in direct contravention of the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, to which Canada acceded in June of 1969. The principle of “unity of the family” is outlined in this document, which states that the United Nations “recommends governments to take the necessary measures for the protection of the refugee’s family, especially with a view to ensuring that the unity of the refugee’s family is maintained particularly in cases where the head of the family has fulfilled the necessary conditions for admission to a particular country.” The separation of adult dependent children from the family application and the removal of their eligibility through their parents is a direct assault on this principle of family unity.

The requirement that the adult children must provide their own compelling reasons for requiring refugee status could increase the likelihood of family separation, as proving the need for Canada’s protection could be more difficult for the dependent children than for their parents.  In many cases, these adult children have lived their entire life in a refugee camp or may not have memories of the initial event that led to their displacement.  Considering that the average amount of time spent in a refugee camp is now 20 years, it could be very difficult for a young adult who has lived in a refugee camp for years without a change to situation to prove that Canada’s protection is necessary at this point in time.

In cases where families are separated if the young adult child was not granted refugee status along with their family, then these children could be left in precarious situations in refugee camps without the protection of their family.  Concerns have been raised about the implications of this new rule for young women in particular, who do not typically live alone as young adults in many parts of the world.

Of the changes, Rick Goldman of the Canadian Council for Refugees said that “it is very unfortunate that a government that supposedly espouses family values is making this kind of frontal attack on something that all Canadians would view as family unity.”

FWCanada is a Montreal-based immigration law firm that provides professional legal services on Canadian immigration. For more tips and updates on Canadian immigration follow FWCanada on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.


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