Immigrants face language, financial barriers during crisis

April 12, 2020

By Chilliwack Progress |

The unknowns faced by new immigrants in Canada have multiplied in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the immigration process hasn’t slowed, officials say.

Exemptions to current travel advisories allow temporary foreign workers, international students and approved permanent residents to enter the country despite ongoing restrictions barring non-essential travel to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Those coming into the country are required to pass a health check and isolate for 14 days after arriving.

But the days and weeks since the pandemic hit Canada have created new challenges for newcomers, says Asuka Hirai, director at the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society (VIRCS).

“Some of our clients, they have lost their jobs,” she said. “Many were new and just got hired, so some qualify for EI (employment insurance) but some don’t.”

Hirai says some of the new Canadians who can access EI are still struggling.

“Many of them are having difficulties applying for benefits because they have low literacy skills,” she said. “So it has been difficult for them to navigate the system to access resources.”

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