Global News, March 2022
Alfred Maluach fled his home in South Sudan at the age of nine because of a civil war. He spent the next 12 years living at Kakuma Refugee Camp, a sprawling encampment with 200,000 residents built beneath the scorching Kenyan sun. Life in the camp was hard, he said. He usually ate one meal a day and sometimes went without food. Water was always rationed and there was never enough. “A lot of people are dying there with no hope,” he said.
Maluach came to Canada in 2011 on a university scholarship and has a master’s degree in biomedical toxicology from the University of Toronto. Like many Canadians, he has watched the war in Ukraine with horror. He feels tremendous sympathy for the people fleeing violence and for those forced to leave their homes. He also feels a sense of pride seeing how Canada has responded to the crisis. But he questions why Canada and other western nations have responded to Ukraine in ways that are so different from how they have responded to other crises in the past. “I’m not jealous about Canada’s response to Ukraine because that is how they should be responding,“ Maluach said. “But the kind of attention that’s been given to Ukraine would also benefit other refugees.”
The way Canada and its European allies have offered to help Ukrainian refugees has been heralded by human rights advocates as a model for future crises. But the conflict has also highlighted long-standing concerns about systemic racism and abuse directed toward asylum seekers from other countries. Canada, for example, has said it will give temporary residency and work permits to an unlimited number of Ukrainians. It has also promised to create a new “expedited path” for permanent residency for Ukrainian citizens with relatives living in Canada.
Experts say this marks a major departure from previous refugee assistance programs, such as for Syrians or Afghans, which have included caps on the number of people accepted and often required months, if not years, for applications to be approved.