Amid calls to help people affected by the 

Canada eases migration for Turks, Syrians affected by quakes

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Amid calls to help people affected by the earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria, Canada took steps to ease procedures for migrants from those countries. On Saturday, officials announced that they would ease immigration procedures for Turkish and Syrian citizens already in the country, a month after an earthquake killed more than 50,000 people in the two countries.

Crews demolish a building heavily damaged in the earthquakes, in Malatya, southeastern Türkiye, March 19, 2023. (AA Photo)
Crews demolish a building heavily damaged in the earthquakes, in Malatya,
southeastern Türkiye, March 19, 2023. (AA Photo

The 7.7 magnitude earthquake on Feb. 6 killed more than 48,000 people in Türkiye and thousands more in neighboring Syria, devastating hundreds of thousands of buildings.

“Canada is committed to providing relief to those impacted by the devastating earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria,” said Sean Fraser, minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship. The new measures would allow, for example, people from those countries to apply for work permits that authorize foreigners to work for any employer for a specified period. “Today, we are introducing new measures that make it easier for Turkish and Syrian nationals to extend their stay in Canada and be with their families while continuing to work and study in a safe environment,” Fraser added.

The announcement comes 10 days after the U.N. urged the international community to speed up its settlement of Syrian refugees from areas affected by the earthquake in Türkiye.

“Those who are here temporarily can apply for visa extensions as of March 29, and fees will be waived,” Fraser and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said in a joint news release. The release said the government has already been processing temporary and permanent residence applications “on a priority basis” for victims of the devastating Feb. 6 earthquakes.

Fraser said experiences in rapidly accepting people fleeing war-torn Ukraine had forced the government to develop quicker resettlement programs, which will benefit the Turks and Syrians. “We’re using a new strategy to help facilitate the arrival of people who find themselves in those situations (who) ordinarily may not be approved to come to Canada,” he added.

As of March 10, there were about 6,400 Turkish and 600 Syrian residents whose temporary status was to expire within six months. “We know that many Canadians have family members who have been impacted by the earthquakes, and today’s measures should offer comfort to those Canadians,” Alghabra said. “We understand the challenges faced by those impacted by this tragedy and remain steadfast in providing support and relief during this difficult time.”

Türkiye has long complained about a slow visa process for its citizens traveling to Europe and other countries, particularly Germany. But earthquakes that struck the country and neighboring Syria appear to have turned the tide, at least for disaster victims. As a result, some European countries have decided to ease visa procedures for victims to be hosted by relatives across Europe. Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany have all taken action to facilitate visa applications of Turkish and Syrian citizens residing in their countries so that they can temporarily host their relatives. In a recent statement, the Swiss State Secretariat for Migration said that people whose houses were destroyed in the quakes should apply for emergency medical support to benefit from an accelerated visa process. It noted that those victims could get a “rapid pass” form from the Swiss Consulate General in Istanbul but added visa processes will still be done through Schengen policy.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands said that the Dutch government would provide “priority visa appointments” to those who seek to travel to their relatives in the Netherlands from Türkiye. Spouses and relatives of Dutch nationals who apply for a temporary visa to the Netherlands can get a priority visa appointment from the intermediary institution by mailing their phone numbers to the Foreign Ministry. Nicole de Moor, Belgium’s minister for asylum and migration, said that many Belgians would like to help their relatives in Türkiye and temporarily care for them at home. “I have instructed the Immigration Office to speed up the visa application procedure,” she said on Twitter.

Germany also plans to allow quake-hit victims in Türkiye and Syria to stay