Photo of the Eritrean Community Centre of Metropolitan Toronto

Eritrean citizens scared to find work due to permit blunder

Three have had work permits made inadmissible due to names being printed incorrectly

A different naming format is leading to mistakes on work permits and causing some Eritrean citizens to fear that they’ll be unable to find work in Canada.

The issue has been going on for three months and is currently affecting three people, said Iasu Teclezghi from the Eritrean Canadian Community Centre of Metropolitan Toronto.

“When the names are switched, they’re scared they may not find a job,” he said.

On Canadian passports, the last name is followed by the given name(s) and listed on two separate lines. Unlike Eritrean passports, where the first name and family name are listed on one line instead of two, Teclezghi said.

On the erred work permits, the surnames were printed as the given names, and the given names as surnames, he said. This is leading to in-admissible work permits for people trying to find work in Canada.

“The refugee claimant document and the work permits are different,” Teclezghi said. “They’re saying, ‘How can we work?’ They may have some problem because they are new. They don’t know the system, they’re scared.”

A refugee claimant document allows refugees to seek protection in Canada.

In Teclezghi’s experience, the issue is not faced by workers who were sponsored by family members to Canada, but by those who get to Canada through other means of immigration.

In 2017,  refugees admitted to Canada from Eritrea totaled 4,035, not including those who didn’t receive sponsorship or government assistance.

Teclezghi says the solution for this issue lies with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), as they are responsible for printing the work permits.

The IRCC says it is aware of rare instances such as with passports issued by Eritrea where multiple names are entered in one field.

“In these situations, knowledge of local naming customs should be taken into consideration. The primary name that will appear on IRCC issued documents will show the family name as it is indicated on other government issued documents,” says IRCC communications advisor Faith St. John.

To try to resolve the situation, Teclezghi contacts the organization when work permits are incorrect. However, he believes there needs to be a solution that recognizes the difference in naming systems and, ultimately, decreases the errors in work permits.