Asylum seekers on front lines of coronavirus crisis given chance at permanent residency

Asylum seekers working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic are being recognized for their efforts amid calls to acknowledge their sacrifices during the ongoing health crisis.

Federal Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino announced Friday that some refugee claimants — many of whom are in Quebec —  working in health care will be eligible for permanent residency after mobilizing to protect Canadians at the height of the novel coronavirus crisis.

“They put themselves at risk and we are grateful for their risk, for their sacrifice,” he said.

The one-time measure is exceptional to honour those who “paid a very high price” during the pandemic, according to Mendicino.

Read more: Quebec acknowledges asylum seekers’ work on coronavirus front lines

To apply for residency, claimants must have claimed asylum in Canada prior to March 13 and have spent no less than 120 hours working as an orderly, nurse or other designated occupation since then.

They must also demonstrate they have six months of experience in the profession before they can receive permanent residency and have until the end of this month to meet that requirement.

“These were the people who showed up hour after hour, day after day, month after month to work in hospital and long-term care homes where COVID-19 struck most grievously,” Mendicino said.

In May, Quebec Premier François Legault said he would promise to consider pushing for residency status amid growing calls for asylum seekers — who have been dubbed guardian angels — to be acknowledged for their work in the province’s embattled long-term care homes and hospitals hit hard by the health crisis.

At the time, Legault said the government will take a closer look at their cases “one by one” to see if they can qualify for immigration status.

—  With files from the Canadian Press

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