Lack of smartphone functionality for digital immigration services puts refugee claimants at risk: advocates

In Budget 2021, the federal government committed more than $827 million to fund Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s digital platforms over five years. However, settlement organizations say they see issues with basic functionality and platform accessibility, especially when working with vulnerable populations.

Why It Matters

For some subgroups of newcomers, such as refugee claimants and asylum seekers, their primary device is likely to be a smartphone. However, many critical services still are not developed on mobile-friendly interfaces.

As Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) embarks on a multi-year, multi-million dollar digital transformation program, settlement organizations are concerned it will ignore the accessibility needs of the most vulnerable newcomers. Collectif Bienvenue – or Welcome Collective – is a Montreal-based charity that helps refugee claimants fill out their asylum claims online through the IRCC’s portals. They’ve been doing so for the last 18 months, having built an in-house computer lab after a college in the city donated hardware to the organization, says Rani Cruz, director of development and impact. “We’ve seen multiple iterations of ‘modernization’ on the IRCC platform, but we’re given no warning,” says Cruz. “All of a sudden, it’ll change.”

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