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Invasive or not enough? Lawyers raise concerns over screening of Gaza visa applicants

OTTAWA — The security screening the federal government has brought in for people applying to flee the Gaza Strip is facing criticism from both lawyers who feel its questions are too invasive and others who think it should dig even deeper.

A special program that would allow up to 1,000 people in Gaza with relatives in Canada to apply for visas opened for applications last week, with the federal government seeking an extraordinary level of detail.

People are being asked to supply their social media accounts, details about scars and other marks on their bodies, information on everyone they are related to — including through marriage — and every passport they have ever had.

Yameena Ansari, a Calgary immigration lawyer who lobbied for the program, says the questions are creating anxiety for families who worry their loved ones might have trouble answering after three months largely without internet access, electricity, or even adequate food or drinking water.

Ansari says the questions are also extremely painful because they suggest that families desperate to flee the violence in Gaza are suspected terrorists.

Lawyers for Secure Immigration, a group that formed at the outset of the latest Israel-Hamas war, urged the government in a letter last week to ask more pointed questions related to Hamas and terrorist activities to ensure none of the armed militant group’s supporters are allowed into Canada.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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