Marco E. L. Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship of Canada, today announced the launch of a dedicated refugee stream to provide a safe haven for human rights defenders at risk who are fleeing persecution in their home country.
“Often at great personal risk, human rights defenders hold the perpetrators of human rights violations to account and shine a light on stories that otherwise go untold. Through this new refugee stream, the Government of Canada stands with human rights defenders by offering them protection and a safe home in the face of real dangers, because offering refuge to the world’s most vulnerable speaks to who we are as Canadians,” Mendicino said.
Meanwhile, Andrew Anderson, Executive Director of Front Line Defenders said “Front Line Defenders welcomes the launch of a dedicated Canadian refugee stream for human rights defenders at risk and we commend the Canadian government on its leadership in this area. The vast majority of human rights defenders seek to find ways to continue doing their critical work inside their countries. However, in some extremely dangerous situations, human rights defenders are forced to flee their countries and seek asylum for safety. These defenders face unique protection challenges and this new initiative will hopefully serve as a lifeline for some of these courageous individuals who have risked everything for their peaceful human rights work.”
Canada will become one of the first countries to offer a dedicated, permanent pathway for human rights defenders, and will resettle up to 250 human rights defenders per year, including their family members, through the Government-Assisted Refugees Program.
The Immigraion, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada in a statement said the Government of Canada will work with Front Line Defenders and ProtectDefenders.eu, alongside other Canadian and international partners, including the United Nations Refugee Agency, to identify human rights defenders who face security risks and are in need of resettlement, and to find solutions for human rights defenders in need of protection. This will include a particular focus on people at heightened risk, such as women, journalists and LGBTQ2 human rights defenders.
The statement further added that the International experts and advocates have called for dedicated protection measures for human rights defenders. With today’s announcement, Canada is helping to provide more options to human rights defenders in need of protection so that they have a pathway to permanent residence when they cannot return home.