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Canada: uni official laments African refusals

With as few as only three out 10 African students winning visas to study in Canadian institutions of higher learning – and an even lower for those from Francophone Africans in recent years – racism by authorities is being blamed as the main reason for the high percentage of rejections.

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The provost added that reasons given for refusal are “often illogical and absurd”

While concerned parents and guardians plus placement agents have long complained about the trend, university managers are now also coming out, blaming the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada for the dipping numbers.

The latest to speak out against the frustration is Awad Ibrahim, vice-provost for equity, diversity and inclusive excellence at the University of Ottawa.

“The problem with racism is that it can easily be denied because it is mostly invisible and its psychological effects are invisible,” he wrote in the Toronto Star.

“However, its outcome is quite visible. If racism is the reason, denying someone housing or proper education will result in homelessness and dropping out of school.”

Citing an article published by the University World News, racism, he wrote, has become an “undeniable factor in who is refused or who is given a visa to come to Canada as an international student, especially when it comes to international African students”.

The publication reported that between 2018 and April 2023, for African applicants who desired to study in Canadian colleges and universities, 59% of all English-speaking applicants were denied visas, the figure rising to 74% for French-speaking applicants.

“International Africans students’ patience with Canada is at a bubbling point”

It says that the figures for 2022, however, improved to stand at 66% for applicants from Francophone Africans, the same rising for English speakers from the continent where 62% of them were denied visa.

This was in stark contrast to refusal rates for countries such as the UK, Australia and the United States which stood at 13%, 13% and 11%, respectively, while for France the rejection rate was 6.7%.

The PIE News reported that data by Canadian international education company ApplyBoard, in 2021 showed that approval for all the all sources stood at 60% in 2019, against that of Africa at 22%.

The ApplyBoard data also showed approval rates were even lower for one of the biggest students’ source markets in Africa – Nigeria which was a mere 17.6%, rising marginally to 18% in 2020.

The provost added that reasons given for refusal are “often illogical and absurd”.

He cited his own case where he twice acted as a guarantor for a nephew whose application was twice denied on grounds of suspicion he would not go back home after completing studies, and because the 15-year-old was of weak financial standing despite his age.

“Clearly, reforms are urgent not only to streamline the policy but to educate IRCC officers. International Africans students’ patience with Canada is at a bubbling point and its reputation as a rejecting country is hurting our universities’ recruitment efforts, especially in French-speaking African countries,” Ibrahim added.

“We need to be clear about our reasons for rejection, only then can we be sure that we are not talking about racism and implicit biases.”

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