Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

An Uncertain Home: Refugee Protection, Illegal Immigration Status, and Their Effects on Migrants' Housing Stability in Vancouver and Toronto

Document type Article
Author Kissoon, Priya
Journal Canadian Issues
Date 2010 Autumn
ISSN 0318-8442
Pages 64-67


Although a growing number of studies in Canada have focused on refugee, refugee claimant, and immigrant homelessness generally (Hiebert et al, 2006; Murdie, 2008; Miraftab, 2000; Paradis et al, 2008; Klodawsky et al, 2005; Kilbride and Webber, 2006), little is known about people with illegal immigration status, a migrant sub-group that is arguably the most vulnerable by virtue of being the most hidden. Different pathways to statuslessness have varying degrees of risk associated with them, for instance expired student visas compared with sponsorship breakdown or trafficking (Goldring et al, 2007). Recognizing different pathways to illegality, this study focuses on the refugee determination system to draw attention to the intersection of illegality and vulnerability to persecution. This paper offers a snapshot of the characteristics and homelessness experiences of non-status or undocumented migrant participants in Vancouver and Toronto. The discussion raises key points at the intersection of illegality and asylum and then offers selections from the larger study that highlight the particular vulnerabilities facing migrants, like [Ruth], who have experienced statuslessness around the refugee determination process. Before making a refugee claim, people may be out of status if they entered, or were brought to, the country clandestinely; their permits or visas expired and were not renewed; and/or they arrived with false documents. Fear of detention and removal, and a lack of knowledge of the right to seek asylum from persecution, deter some people from making a refugee claim at the "front end" of the system as soon as it is reasonably practicable, and this places them at risk of protracted hidden/invisible homelessness while they are 'underground'. Moreover, after a claim is refused, people may live 'underground' at the "back end" of the system, with palpable fear about detention and removal. She gave $200 for me- That now, I got to save to - I have to pay $550 for my immigration thing. So I put that towards it because she tell me, 'and buy foods for your kids, full up your fridge.' But I couldn't do that because I have my immigration. My freezer, it's empty. All I have is some ice, a bag with peas, a thing of - my sister bring up, from her workplace, she bring up two sprite bottles with milk for me for the kids. I put one in the freezer and one in the fridge. It's like my son asks me this morning, 'When are you going to buy groceries to put in the fridge? What are we going to eat?' I said, ? will. I will. I'm just defrosting the fridge, clean it up.'