Need More Support to Serve Undocumented Residents in Toronto
By A Correspondent
Social Planning Toronto has released a report on challenges faced by community agencies and organizations serving undocumented immigrants in the city. The report shows that the need for support and the lack of formal organizational polices are creating inconsistent access to services for undocumented residents in Toronto, despite the best intentions of social service workers. Report will be online at www.socialplanningtoronto.org and www.solidaritycity.net.
“Front-line workers are faced with mounting pressures to serve increasing numbers of non-status residents while simultaneously balancing funding constraints and restrictions on who they can serve. A patchwork of services across the city also makes it difficult to provide appropriate care,” said Navjeet Sidhu, researcher at Social Planning Toronto.
The report surveyed over 100 non-profit organizations across the City of Toronto. Over a third of respondents did not know or were uncertain of their legal rights and obligations if law or immigration enforcement inquired about a specific client. Nearly a third of the survey respondents identified government funding restrictions as a major barrier in the development and adoption of an organizational policy on non-status residents.
Sidhu added, “Many community organizations and workers are doing their best to serve non-status residents. However, organizational policies – or lack thereof – surrounding I.D. requirements, immigration status inquiry, or sharing of status information, creates barriers for non-residents who may be hesitant to seek out the services that they need. Developing formal organizational policies and providing staff-training on non-status issues can improve accessibility and help create safe spaces for non-status residents.”
Over a million people in Canada do not have full immigration status and therefore do not have direct access to many basic services. These include approximately 500,000 undocumented immigrants; over 400,000 migrant workers, nearly 40,000 refugee claimants, and over 100,000 international students, as well as parents, grandparents and spouses.
Syed Hussan of the Solidarity City Network, which is moving to make Toronto a Sanctuary City, adds “As federal laws deny poor migrants of colour full immigration status, many have to make the difficult decision to live in the country without documents.”
“Our non-status neighbours deserve the same basic services as everyone else. It’s obvious that many front-line workers want to provide services but lack the information, organizational support and funding to do so. It’s time for service providers to think creatively about how to support undocumented immigrants, and for all levels of government to ensure status for all and access without fear.”