It is not easy for refugees to change their address in Canada

It is not easy for refugees to change their address in Canada

© Adil Boukind Le Devoir
Keila Lugo, pictured here with her daughter, explains the difficulties that refugee claimants face when they have to change their new address after a move.

After an exhausting move, Flor Lizeth Hernandez did not think that the change of address would cause him the most stress. This Mexican native, who is still waiting for a response to her asylum request made in Canada more than a year ago, was completely left to herself to undertake this crucial process when is an immigrant and that our survival depends on precious documents sent by post.

“The information that affects our immigration status, the date of the hearing or for my baby’s health appointments is very important,” says this young mother, who has just moved from Longueuil. in Saint-Hyacinthe with her husband and child. “For us, it was urgent to change our address. For example, the work permit and social assistance check, when direct deposit is not activated, are essential “papers” that arrive by the postman and not by email.

If these newcomers naturally receive help from organizations to find accommodation or enroll in francization, they find themselves helpless when the time comes to take the many steps to change their address. Ideally, these agencies provide them with the numbers to call, but at the dawn of 1er July, some of them have not even heard of this problem. This is the case of the Regional Reception and Integration Program for Asylum Seekers (PRAIDA), which was not in a position to “confirm or deny the problem”, the latter not having been brought to his attention.

Worried and not knowing what to do, M’s husbandme Hernandez himself took charge of making his new address known to each body. Not yet fluent in French, he had to report in person to the social assistance office, to those of PRAIDA, his lawyer … “The last time we moved, we were lucky because we knew the one who took our accommodation and she kept our mail. But this time, we don’t know. It’s more complicated, “said Ms. Hernandez.

An obstacle course

Arriving in Quebec a year ago, asylum seeker Keila Lugo also went through an obstacle course when she moved in February. “I went to immigration offices, social assistance, my French school … It took me a week to change my address everywhere,” she said. One of the main obstacles, of course, is language, which many immigrants do not yet understand. “I tried on the phone, but it’s difficult when you don’t speak French well. People don’t understand me. “

However, she was slow to receive her welfare check, which took two months to arrive at her new home. Now, her biggest fear is that the letter convening her hearing before the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) will be sent to her old address, having had no news since the move. “I went to the offices to make the change, but the pandemic started and I couldn’t go back to check if everything was okay,” she said, worried that she still hadn’t received anything.

The IRB is formal in this regard: “If we fail to reach the claimant, the discontinuance of this claim may result in failure to respond. It is therefore extremely important for refugee claimants to ensure that the IRB has up-to-date contact information for contacting them, “she said on her website.

Immigration lawyers or consultants are informed of the hearing dates of their refugee claimants, but some claimants have not used these types of professionals.

Inaccessible postal service

To save time with the hassle of changing your address, Canada Post offers a mail forwarding service that, for a fee, automatically redirects it to a new address for a certain period of time.

However, since this service requires the presentation of photo identification or two proofs of residence and an official document such as a birth certificate, most asylum seekers do not have access to it. “Me, all I have is the brown sheet,” says Flor Lizeth Hernandez, referring to the brown document that constitutes an asylum seeker’s identity card while he waits for his reply. “The lady at the counter had never seen this. She called the manager, who told me that I had to present a health insurance card or my driver’s license. But neither my husband nor I have these documents. “

Karla, another refugee claimant who keeps her real name safe from harm, doesn’t understand why Canada Post is denying her access to her mail forwarding service. The asylum seekers’ identification document, however, like the driver’s license and the health insurance card, includes a photo and the personal information of the holders. “This is our identity document. I can do anything with it, “she says, noting that it allows her to open a bank account, for example.

Contacted by The duty, Canada Post has not commented on these access restrictions faced by refugee claimants. However, for any request to redirect mail, the Canadian company said it had implemented “a multi-pronged identity verification process to prevent fraud.” She adds, however, that these “many control mechanisms” are constantly evolving to ensure the protection of its customers.


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