To: The Honorable Minister of Foreign Affairs

Re: Immigration Concerns…

We are appealing to you to consider the serious concerns of the Canadian Lebanese community and Lebanese citizens who go through the process of immigration to Canada. These concerns exist due to the fact that the Canadian immigration section that deals with the Lebanese is not located in the Canadian Embassy in Beirut, but instead in the Canadian Embassy in the Syrian capital, Damascus. Lebanese citizens sponsored by their Canadian family members go through a great deal of difficulty, danger and agony through the process of finalizing the required application forms.

The journey of pain starts after Citizenship and Immigration in Canada forwards a letter to the sponsored member in Lebanon informing him his application has been approved and mailed to the Canadian Embassy Visa Office in Damascus for further processing. The sponsored person is advised that in the event he does not receive his application within six months, to contact the visa office in the Canadian embassy in Damascus.

Here begins the dilemma, because no one can reach the Visa office by phone and there is no means to inquire except by going in person to Damascus. Going to Damascus is not an easy thing to do. It is an expensive, time-consuming, dangerous and laborious procedure. The phone number for the Visa office is not listed with the application and the office accepts no phone inquiries. If the sponsored is especially lucky, his application would have been received and the necessary forms would be handed to him during his first journey, and if not he would have to make the same journey again and again till he gets the needed forms. Then another journey is required to submit the completed forms, to conduct the interview, to do medical tests, to follow the results, etc.

Besides the huge financial expenses the sponsored has to bear, the procedure is time consuming. It is also not safe at all for many Lebanese to cross the Syrian-Lebanese borders or to be in Syria. There is always a risk of being arrested and detained if they come from a family, village or party that opposes the Syrian occupation to Lebanon.

We know you are aware that there are thousands of innocent Lebanese detainees in Syrian jails with no trials or charges laid or even family knowledge of their whereabouts. The majority of these detainees are considered prisoners of conscience according to all Human Rights international organizations.

On behalf of the Lebanese-Canadian community we ask you to help establish a Visa and a complete Immigration Department at the Canadian Embassy in Beirut.

Our Community most appreciates your continuous support to the Lebanese people, especially those who are oppressed and whose human rights have been threatened.

Secretary for the Federation,

Elias Bejjani

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