Dozens of temporary foreign workers displaced by the Fort McMurray wildfire could be forced to leave Canada because of the restrictions in place on their permits.
TFWs are tied to single employers and not allowed to change jobs, meaning if work no longer exists because of the devastating impact of the blaze, they may have to return home.
Many have applications for Canadian permanent residency in process, which would also be invalidated if they no longer have a job to stay for.
It was reported recently that a huge backlog of permanent residency applications exists in Alberta, with many TFWs seeing their work permits expire before getting a decision on whether they are allowed to stay in Canada permanently.
With a lack of friends and family to support them after fleeing a fire that threatens to wipe out the whole city, with 88,000 people evacuated so far, TFWs are facing an immediate accommodation crisis and an uncertain longer-term future.
The TFWs in the Fort McMurray area are rarely employed directly in oil, but more likely to do jobs in restaurants and hotels built to service the Alberta city.
Fort McMurray wildfire facts
- 88,000 people evacuated
- Minimum 1,500 structures destroyed
- Fire covers at least 10,000 hectares
- More than 1,100 firefighters deployed, plus Canadian military
- Blaze has been burning since May 1
- Evacuation is largest Alberta has ever seen
- Canadians can donate to the Red Cross appeal
Early reports suggest workers have already begun turning up in Edmonton with only the clothes they are wearing – often work uniforms – after losing all their possessions to the blaze which has been burning since May 1.
Often the government’s only means of contacting such workers is through their address, making the situation even more desperate for an already vulnerable group.
The situation is being close monitored by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the government department responsible for TFWs. It says it will consider introducing special measures to help all of those who have had their lives devastated by the fire.
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