Asylum seekers that fled Trump’s America were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 when Montreal became the epicenter of Canada’s first wave. Most of them work “essential” jobs that have a higher risk of exposure, but without access to many of the benefits and protections that Canadian citizens enjoy.
The government, in response to the public’s outcry, created a special program to give asylum seekers a chance at permanent residency, but only for those who have direct contact with COVID-19 patients, leaving out the thousands working as cleaners, security guards in hospitals, warehouse workers and more. It took almost a year, and two more deadly waves of the virus for the government to expand the eligibility to all essential workers.
For asylum seekers living in the province of Quebec, one of the biggest migrant hubs in the country, working during the second or third wave has not made a difference. The local government, who has a history of anti-immigration measures, has added multiple barriers to the process, effectively blocking access to this path to citizenship for thousands of workers that keep the economy and vital services of Quebec functioning during the pandemic.