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Toronto man prevented from being with dying mother due to backlog in immigration system

By Shauna Hunt

Toronto resident Hailu Damene is helpless as his mother’s condition worsens. She’s receiving cancer treatments in Kenya, but he can’t leave the country to be with her because his immigration documents are in limbo.

“She has blood and bone marrow cancer, and her condition is getting worse and worse,” Damene tells CityNews. “I can’t do my work; I keep thinking what if I lose my mother? I am just worried all the time.”

Back in August, Damene mailed off his passport and birth certificate to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) as part of his application for permanent residency.

Almost nine months later, there has been no movement on his file. After his mother’s diagnosis last fall, he then applied for urgent travel documents, however, that file is also stuck in the processing backlog.

“I know things are disrupted because of COVID, but it shouldn’t take an emergency travel document application this long,” Damene said.

The IRCC tells CityNews it’s aware of the ongoing issues and thanked applicants for their patience. “We continue to work as hard as possible to reduce processing times and we recognize that we must keep improving our operations and services so Canada can attract more immigrants and visitors to remain globally competitive,” the statement read.

With thousands of Ukrainians now seeking refuge in Canada, the IRCC tells CityNews it is fully equipped and has the resources to handle multiple initiatives.

“The Government of Canada is investing an additional $117 million to implement Canada’s new immigration measures to welcome those fleeing the war in Ukraine. Our commitment to global humanitarian commitments remains firm.”

According to the IRCC’s website as of March 31, most permanent residence and citizenship services now provide weekly status updates through the online portal.

RELATED: Delays at citizenship office has applicants waiting years to become Canadians

But Damene is still having trouble accessing his information. “It keeps saying my file is with the responsible office. It’s been the same for months. I’m on the phone everyday and can’t get answers.”

CityNews was first made aware of the immigration issue back in March after reporting on the major backlog for passport renewals.

Since then, several people in Damene’s position have contacted CityNews.

“I am grateful to be in Canada, but I need to be with my mother, even the doctors are telling me I need to come now,” said Damene.

CityNew inquired to the IRCC about the status of Daneme’s appilication and they say as of April 19, his application has been approved and a refugee travel document has been mailed to him.

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