Two massive earthquakes have struck the mountain kingdom-country of Nepal. The devastation has ravaged the already limited infrastructure of that developing nation.
On April 25 and May 12, 2015 two powerful earthquakes caused widespread destruction and loss of life in Nepal. The UN reports that the death toll has increased to 8,604 people, and 16, 808 people are injured.
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “Nepal: Earthquake 2015 Situation Report No. 16 (as of 18 May 2015)” online: United Nations <un.org.np>.
To date almost half a million homes have been destroyed and over a quarter million are damaged. The UN estimates that 2.8 million are displaced. 3.5 million are in need of food assistance.
Infrastructure, transportation and services have been severely disrupted. Many roads and highways are structurally damaged. The seasonal monsoon rains threaten to overwhelm Nepal’s fragile transportation network and impede aid distribution.Hospital capacity has been overwhelmed.
Schools have been closed since the earthquake and 1,383 schools in 26 districts have been damaged. UN figures estimate that 5,000 schools were destroyed and more than 16,000 schools have been damaged.
UN OSOCC, “Situational Analysis Nepal Earthquake”, (May 5, 2015) online: OSOCC Assessment Cell <reliefweb.int> [OSOCC]. 2015) where an economist who works in the international development sector In Nepal says that highways
See Madhura Karnik, “Nepal’s economy back by more than a decade,” (April 27, 2015) online: Quartz India <qz.com> [Karnik].
“Nepal earthquake: ‘5000 schools destroyed and thousands more damaged’ A World at School (29 April 2015) online: <http://www.aworldatschool.org/news/entry/nepal-earthquake-thousands-of-schools-destroyed-or-damaged-1919>.
Vultures, of the wingless variety, stalk the streets of Nepal. Officials warn that vulnerable women and girls are at risk of being trafficked for sexual exploitation.
Many Nepalese live in Canada as citizens, permanent residents, and some are temporary foreign workers. It is this last group that is under incredible stress. They desperately want to return to Nepal to comfort their parents, wives, husbands, and children. At the same time, they know (and their families know) that the best way that they can help is to continue working here and sending remittances back home to rebuild those homes and provide the necessities of life. A return scenario is unthinkable: even before the earthquakes the unemployment in that country was over 40%.
What are these temporary foreign workers to do? The best way to give voice and effect to Canada's humanitarian tradition is to give them (and their families) status in this country. Some may be eligible under an economic class (like the Express Entry, if they are working in a skilled occupation and their employer has a LMIA) or perhaps a provincial nominee program.
What of those Nepalese that are here as low skill temporary foreign workers? There is no ready pathway to permanent residence under an economic class (certainly none federally, and limited routes for certain workers in certain provinces).
One option may be an application under s.25 (a "humanitarian and compassionate" application). Such applications call for the reviewing officer to consider the establishment of a foreign national as well as the hardship in return.
It is clear that it will take years, if not longer, for Nepal to recover.
Michael Messenger, Executive Vice President of World Vision Canada writes:
[L]ife in Nepal is nowhere near returning to normal, and will not be for many years to come. ...
When I met 13-year-old Rambhakta in Bhaktapour a few days ago, he told me he was dreading going back to school. It wasn’t about disliking his teacher, or hoping to avoid fractions. Ram’s afraid to find out which of his friends wouldn’t be returning to school because they died in the earthquake.
Michael Messenger, “Nepal is Years from Recovery, But Full of Hope” Huffington Post (8 May 2015) online: < http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/michael-messenger/nepal-earthquake_b_7241344.html>.
Such applications are to consider the "best interests of a child affected by the decision". This includes foreign born children and children outside of Canada (Palumbo v Canada (Minister of Citizenship & Immigration), 2009 FC 706).
The children of our temporary foreign workers from Nepal are at risk, physically and emotionally. These workers are gainfully employed, have safe housing and have a community and a network of support. These children can go to school here, will adjust easily and will undoubtedly be valued and contributing members of our society in due course.
There is little doubt in my mind that the discretion afforded to our immigration officers under s.25 should be utilized in this circumstance. Even better, it would be remarkable if our government granted a Nepalese temporary foreign worker permanent resident status as an entire class. Any suggestion that this will open the floodgates is specious. There are only a few hundred Nepalese TFWs in Canada.
To those that will object to this simple solution on the grounds of cost, or that these are simply "temporary" and therefore "disposable", it is important to note that we accept almost 300,000 individuals per year as permanent residents. 300 temporary foreign workers is an accounting error when dealing in such numbers.
We have assisted dozens of Nepalese foreign workers these last few weeks and hope the best for them and their families.