Refugee family from Ukraine seeking to return to Canada faces immigration backlogs

Mina Melad Gerges Makar and his family had to leave Canada for Ukraine after his immigration application was rejected in January. But a month later, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine forced the Makars to flee to Switzerland.

Now, he’s hoping to return to Canada and his lawyer believes the Makars have a “strong case” to make to Canadian immigration officials, but the backlog in the immigration system remain a significant hurdle.

“I think we’ll ultimately get a positive decision. I’m confident of that. We have good facts and I believe that when you have good facts, you usually get a good decision,” immigration lawyer Barbara Jo Caruso told CTV News Channel on Friday.

Makar and his wife, Svitlana, first came to Canada in 2016. Although their three children were all born in Canada and are thus Canadian citizens, they were deported to Ukraine after their case to stay in the country on humanitarian and compassionate grounds wasn’t approved.

After the war broke out, the Makars made the long journey across the Polish border and then to Germany. They eventually landed in Switzerland, where they are being hosted by a Swiss family.

“(The children) have a right to come to Canada. Unfortunately, their parents aren’t Canadian citizens and don’t have a right,” Caruso said.

“But they have always abided by Canadian law and that is definitely in their favour, as is the fact that they’ve paid taxes here. There are no criminality issues. They have English skills. They have a job waiting for them,” she continued.

While Caruso is hopeful that the Makars get their case approved this month, she says there are nearly 100,000 cases ahead of theirs that are still pending.

“I’m a little concerned at the time that this is taking. We’re six weeks into having filed their application and although it has a layer of complexity that other applications may not have, the delay is, in my mind, still somewhat unreasonable,” she said.

Adding to the backlog is the Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel, granting “an unlimited” number displace Ukrainians temporary work and study visas for up three years. Caruso and other immigration lawyers have been calling for measures that would speed up processing, such as issuing electronic visas for Ukrainians rather than physical counterfoil visas.

“At 25 years doing this, I’ve never seen backlogs like this before. It’s unprecedented and the timing couldn’t have been worse for this crisis to happen when the government already had 1.8 million applications,” said Caruso.

In the meantime, Makar and his family have been trying to adjust to their new life in Switzerland and trying to learn German and French.

“I just hope that I close my eyes and come back and this is finished and all the pain is gone,” Makar told CTV News Channel on Friday. “We’ve suffered so much.”

With files from writer Michael Lee


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