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Canada Citizenship Numbers Set To Explode Later This Year After Dropping To Almost Zero - IMMIGRATION CANADA

FEBRUARY 05, 2021

An explosion in the number of permanent residents getting their Canadian citizenship is likely to hit Canada later this year or early next year, says Robert Falconer, a research associate at the School of Public Policy of the University of Calgary.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada data shows just how much the COVID-19 pandemic has affected citizenship ceremonies in Canada.

In the first 11 months of last year, only 107,119 people took the citizenship oath in Canada, a drop of almost 45.9 per cent from the 233,397 who became Canadian citizens during the comparable period the previous year. 

Throughout 2019, a total of 250,367 permanent residents became Canadian citizens. Although the number of new citizens did fluctuate monthly, the average for any given month was about 20,860.

That level maintained itself through to the end of February. 

Then, the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic hit Canada hard. Lockdowns went into effect throughout the country, effectively shutting down citizenship ceremonies in most places. 

In all of Canada, only 14 people took the citizenship oath in April last year and only 61 in May. The numbers started to pick up again in June with 1,716 new citizens and built up to a high of 13,819 in September only to drop back to 9,194 in October and a paltry 3,365 in November. 

“On March 14, 2020, in response to the evolving COVID-19 situation, we cancelled all citizenship ceremonies, tests and retests until further notice,” says IRCC communications advisor Lauren Sankey.

“After a period of near-total shutdown, we began holding citizenship ceremonies online, and as of Nov. 30, IRCC has sworn in or affirmed over 45,300 new Canadian citizens in over 8,900 ceremonies.”

On November 26, the Canadian immigration department put in place an online platform for taking citizenship tests, making Canada the first country in the world to offer citizenship testing online.

During the next few months, Sankey says the platform will be tested and only a limited number of people invited to take the online test so that the system’s performance can be monitored.

“As long as no major issues are encountered, IRCC was expecting to be able to offer the online citizenship test to about 5,000 clients by the end 2020 – and preliminary data indicate that we exceeded that number,” says Sankey. 

Falconer says there are a few reasons for the precipitous drop in people becoming Canadian citizens last year.

Hard times due to job losses and economic uncertainty for many permanent residents in Canada during the pandemic affected the ability of some to pay the fees to become a citizen, he says.

“If you’re out of work or you’ve been impacted negatively by COVID-19, you might say, ‘I’ll wait another year until things get better,’” says Falconer. 

“It costs a fair amount of money for a family of four to get their citizenship.”

Citizenship fees of various kinds add up to about $630 per adult and roughly $100 for a child. A family of four with two parents could expect to pay about $1,460 to get their citizenship.

Since Ottawa has said it will likely be removing those citizenship fees, many permanent residents may be waiting for brighter times before taking the plunge.

Falconer says the government’s decision to move citizenship ceremonies online during the pandemic also likely had some permanent residents waiting until they can celebrate this milestone in person with friends and family. 

The pandemic, which has forced many business operations to go online, has also likely created delays in the processing of citizenship applications as government employees move from office environments to working from home. 

All of this is creating a pent-up demand for citizenship ceremonies that will likely explode once the pandemic fades into memory.

“There’ll be an explosion in citizenship ceremonies for a couple of reasons,” says Falconer. “People are waiting until they can do it in person and, on the government side, it’s taking longer to process the applications.

“We’ll see some resumption over the summer, especially if they allow outdoor ceremonies.”

The immigration and refugee issues researcher is expecting the explosion in citizenship numbers to come late this year or early next year. 

The pent-up demand from this year added to the regular volume of a normal year, could see roughly 30,000 new Canadian citizens per month in 2022. That number of citizenship applications might be difficult for the IRCC to process with its current staffing levels. 

“The IRCC is one of the most under-staffed government institutions in Canada,” says Falconer. 

Immigrants need to have lived in Canada for three years to qualify for citizenship. The sharp downturn in immigration caused by border restrictions due to COVID-19 is not affecting citizenship numbers yet since these people are already in Canada. 

But the anomalous immigration pattern last year and so far this year due to the pandemic is likely to cause fluctuations in the number of people applying for citizenship in three years.

“You’ll see a brief drop followed by an equivalent spike later on,” says Falconer.

As Canadian immigration officials work with the new online tests for citizenship, an important aspect is the verification of applicants’ identities, which is important to the integrity of the program.

“Measures are place to confirm each applicant’s identity by capturing a photo of their ID, their face and by taking static photos (non-biometric) during the test,” says Sankey.


FG suspends outbound Emirates flights - PUNCH

FEBRUARY 05, 2021

BY  Segun Adewole

The outbound flights fo Emirates Airlines from Nigeria have been hit with a 72-hour suspension by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority.

This is contained in a circular issued on February 4 which states that the suspension followed a violation of guidelines placed by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, The PUNCH learnt.

The airline is accused of airlifting passengers from Nigeria using rapid antigen tests done at laboratories which are not approved by regulatory authorities.

The circular read, “Based on the foregoing and to enable the Nigerian government to put in place the needed infrastructure and logistics for COVID-19 RDT testing for departing passengers, the PTF has directed that Emirates Airlines should either accept passengers without RDT pending when the infrastructure and logistics are put in place or suspend its flights to and from Nigeria until such a time when the required infrastructure and logistics are fully established and implemented.

“Emirates Airlines has not been in compliance with the two options given by the PTF as records obtained from Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) indicates that Emirates Airlines operated the flights from both Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos and Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja.”

UAE suspends rapid tests, FG lifts ban on Emirates - PUNCH

FEBRUARY 07, 2021

BY  Joseph Olaoluwa

The Federal Government has lifted the ban it earlier placed on Emirates airlines.

This is coming after the United Arab Emirates granted the carrier permission to withdraw the Rapid Antigen Testing prior to the departure of Emirates flights from Nigeria, according to a letter by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority.

Due to the development, the Presidential TaskForce directed the immediate lifting of the suspension of Emirates airlines operations in Nigeria.

The letter signed by the Director-General of NCAA, Capt. Musa Nuhu expected the airline to comply with the directives by the PTD on COVID-19 and other protocols of the Federal Government of Nigeria.

“Emirates airlines will be duly informed of ongoing enforcement actions by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority with regards to the established non-compliances to PTF directives and protocols as enumerated in our letter of February 4, 2021,” the letter read.

Similarly, the airline expressed its desire to continue flying to Nigeria as it thanked the authorities for their support.

It read, “Emirates can confirm that we will continue to operate services to Abuja and Lagos. We are strongly committed to Nigeria, and would like to thank the local authorities for their trust and support. We look forward to continuing to safely connect our customers, and meet air travel demand from Nigeria to and through Dubai to Emirates’ global network.”

The foreign carrier was earlier on banned for airlifting passengers from Nigeria using Rapid Antigen Tests conducted by laboratories that are neither approved nor authorised by the appropriate regulatory bodies.

It also failed to comply with the two options given by the PTF to the airline, according to records obtained by the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency

Similarly, it accused the foreign carrier of advertising two centres not approved for coronavirus rapid testing, identified as Travel Clinic and Medicaid Mobile Laborator.

Nigeria Lifts Emirates’ Suspension - SIMPLY FLYING

FEBRUARY 07, 2021

By  Mark Finlay

A spokesperson for the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) announced that Nigeria had lifted its suspension of Emirates flights after the state-owned carrier insisted that passengers from Nigeria needed additional COVID-19 tests. In a telephone call, the NCAA spokesperson said that the suspension “has just been lifted because they have complied with what we want.”

Emirates on tarmac
Nigeria suspended Emirates because they wanted passengers to take a rapid antigen test. Photo: Getty Images

The initial reasoning

Last Monday, a spokesperson for the aviation ministry said that in addition to requiring a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test before flying from Nigeria, Emirates was now requiring a rapid test being done four hours before departure. Rapid antigen tests are slightly less accurate than a PCR test but can return coronavirus test results in around 15 minutes.

In a letter to the manager of Emirates in Nigeria dated February 4 and titled: “Suspension of Emirates airlines operations to Nigeria.”


The NCAA claimed that Emirates had flown passengers from Nigeria that had taken COVID-19 tests done by labs that have not been approved nor authorized by the appropriate Nigerian authorities. Reuters claims that the letter says that the decision to suspend Emirates flights was made because Emirates failed to heed a request by Nigeria.

Airport Testing Getty
Rapid antigen test results are available in 15 minutes. Photo: Getty Images

Nigeria asked Emirates to accept passengers who had not taken the rapid test four hours before departure until such a time as it was possible to have this test done at Nigerian airports by approved laboratories. If they could not accommodate the Nigerian authorities with this request, the letter said that they should suspend all flights to Nigeria.

Nigerians must arrive on direct flights

According to aviation sources, a travel notice on the RwandAir website said that the relevant authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) would only permit the entry of passengers arriving on direct flights from Nigeria. Passengers from Nigeria who had transited through a third country would not be allowed in.

This was in response to other non-confirmed claims that Nigerians were making their way to Dubai through countries that did not have strict protocols regarding the virus. By doing this, it automatically stopped other countries’ airlines from carrying Nigerian passengers to the UAE.

Airlines try and do everything they can to make flying as stress-free as possible, which means that the four-hour antigen test before flying to Dubai was probably at the authorities’ request in the UAE.

An Emirates spokesperson told Simple Flying the following:

“Emirates can confirm that we will continue to operate services to Abuja and Lagos. We are strongly committed to Nigeria, and would like to thank the local authorities for their trust and support. We look forward to continuing to safely connect our customers, and meet air travel demand from Nigeria to and through Dubai to Emirates’ global network.”

Happily, it looks as though this has all been sorted out and that Nigeria has lifted Emirates suspension.

U.K. to Bring in Hotel Quarantine for Travelers From Feb. 15 - BLOOMBERG

FEBRUARY 07, 2021

By   and 

  •  Minister defends time taken to finalize plan announced in Jan.
  •  Hancock sought advice on policy from Australia, New Zealan


The U.K. will require travelers arriving from coronavirus hot spots to quarantine in hotels starting Feb. 15, almost three weeks after the plan was announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Arrivals from countries on the U.K.’s travel ban list will be required to isolate for 10 days in government-approved accommodation, the Department for Health and Social Care said in a statement late Thursday. Officials are seeking bids from hotels near airports and ports to support the program.

The announcement follows days of confusion over how soon the government would implement a policy it sees as critical to prevent new strains of coronavirus that may be more resistant to vaccines from entering the country. Hotels said they were kept in the dark over the government’s intentions.

“We’ve been working to make sure that we know what we need to ask of the hotels,” Cabinet minister James Cleverly told LBC radio on Friday. “If you’re a hotel and you’re next to a major airport, you’ve got a pretty good idea that you’re the kind of hotel we’re looking for.”

The Telegraph newspaper reported ministers aim to secure 28,000 hotel rooms for the program, a number Cleverly declined to confirm.

Vaccines Hold Key

Johnson is hoping to use the country’s so-far successful vaccination program as a springboard to reopen the economy after a third lockdown which started last month. He has said schools will open from March 8 at the earliest, and has promised to publish a plan for easing the restrictions in the week of Feb. 22.

Keeping out vaccine-resistant strains of Covid-19 is crucial to those plans. The government has put 30 countries, including the whole of South America, a swath of southern Africa and Portugal, on the travel ban list after new variants that emerged in Brazil and South Africa in recent weeks heightened concerns.

Cleverly told the BBC a blanket ban on arrivals from all countries would be an “excessive” move, and that the U.K. will use its genomic program to identify new strains to adapt its list of high-risk countries.

The existing ban doesn’t apply to U.K. citizens returning from those countries, which the quarantine plan is meant to address. Arrivals in the U.K. are already required to show a negative Covid-19 test and isolate for 10 days, but there’s no set location, making enforcement difficult. The government said it is increasing police presence at airports and increasing checks at residences.

‘Race Against Time’

Still, the opposition Labour Party’s home affairs spokesman, Nick Thomas-Symonds, criticized the announcement as “too little, too late.”

“We are in a race against time to protect our borders against new Covid strains, he said. “Yet hotel quarantine will come in to force more than 50 days after the South African strain was discovered.”

Officials have held a series of meetings with more than 60 companies and industry representatives in the aviation, maritime and hospitality industries. Formal contracts will be awarded to hotels, with former Vice Chief of Defence Staff, General Gordon Messenger, advising the government on the delivery of the program, according to the Department of Health.

“The introduction of quarantine hotels for ‘red list countries’ builds on a mountain of existing measures for travel, and we need to see a clear plan for how these will be lifted,” said travel agents’ and tour operators’ association ABTA, which also called for more financial support for the sector.

The Times newspaper reported late Thursday that ministers are also considering a certification system for Britons, to allow them to travel to countries that may require proof of inoculation for coronavirus upon entry.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Thursday he’d spoken with his Australian counterpart to seek advice about how to quarantine travelers in hotels. His officials are also liaising with New Zealand authorities. Both nations have had mandatory quarantine for months.

More than 110,000 people in the U.K. have died from coronavirus, compared to 909 in Australia.

— With assistance by Joe Mayes, and Charlotte Ryan

(Updates with Cleverly comment in fourth paragraph, details throughout)

Britain will not introduce COVID-19 vaccine passports - REUTERS

FEBRUARY 08, 2021

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain will not introduce COVID-19 vaccine passports, but people will be able to seek proof from their doctor if needed for travel to other countries, vaccine deployment minister Nadhim Zahawi said on Sunday.

“We are certainly not looking to introduce it as part of the vaccine deployment programme,” Zahawi told Sky News.

Reporting by Costas Pitas; Editing by Hugh Lawson

U.K. firm tests run hovercraft in Lagos - THE NATION

FEBRUARY 08, 2021

By Lucas Ajanaku

 

To enhance the water transportation system in Lagos State, a United Kingdom (U.K.) firm carried out a trial of hovercraft on Lagos waterways at the weekend. Hovercraft is an amphibious boat-like vehicle that travels over water, sand and on grasses.

The U.K. hovercraft design and manufacturing company, Griffon Hoverwork, carried out the demonstration in a move that can improve the climate resilience of Lagos state, contributing to sustainable and inclusive economic development in the city.

An enhanced and reliable water transport system will also reduce congestion on roads, promote economic growth, and improve competition in the business environment as well as the overall operations in the state. It will reduce travel time, improve connectivity between communities and hence provide access to critical services such as healthcare, education and employment.

The U.K. government through its Future Cities Nigeria Programme, have been providing technical assistance to the state government to enhance its water transport system, which will in turn improve the climate resilience of the state, by offering a viable alternative to road transport, and provide an improved transport option for Lagos residents and visitors.

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Speaking at the occasion, British Deputy High Commissioner, Ben Llewellyn-Jones said the U.K. government is keen to assist the Lagos State government in the area of water transportation, and urban development.

He noted that Griffon Hoverwork, a leading manufacturer of hovercrafts has displayed the capabilities of a hovercraft as a means of reducing carbon emissions and road congestion and supporting growth in the water transport sector.

“Lagos is Africa’s largest city with lots of capacity, but relies excessively on road vehicles for transport, leading to long and expensive commutes and traffic delays. Through our Future Cities Nigeria programme, we are working with LASWA to develop water transport routes that reduce road traffic congestion, provide safer, cleaner, reduced cost transport and reduce CO2 emissions

“It’s great to see these plans start to become reality through this trial of a hovercraft on the Lagos waterways. This demonstrates the range of opportunities and potential for UK and other international businesses in this sector to benefit from the new transport routes,” Llewellyn-Jones said.

General Manager, LASWA, Mr. Oluwadamilola Emmanuel, said the UK’s Global Future Cities Programme with the Lagos State government is helping to expand the state’s waterways transport and improve the environment.

“Lagos waterways is a key resource to the state and we will continue to work with the UK government to make water transportation a viable, reliable and alternative means of transport for the people of Lagos,” Emmanuel said.

In collaboration with the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) and the Nigerian Navy, the UK have used medical hovercrafts to reach the remote areas of Delta in Southsouth Nigeria and the Northeast, providing healthcare to underserved communities.

FG set for Kano-Maradi Rail Line Ground Breaking 9th February - TVC

FEBRUARY 08, 2021

The Federal Government is set for the Ground Breaking ceremony of Kano-Maradi rail line on Tuesday, 9th February,2021  to commence the 284km  standard gauge rail project by the contractor,  Messrs Mota-Engil Nigeria Ltd, a Portuguese firm.

The Minister of Transportation,  Rotimi Amaechi has said that the Kano-Maradi line is crucial to the overall railway development in Nigeria and the sub region and therefore when completed,  it represents the last section of the corridor that connects Lagos-Kano and subsequently to the Republic of Niger, through the border town of Maradi.

The Project which is a standard gauge railway line of about 284km traverses Kano-Dambatta-Kazaure-Daura-Mashi-Katsina-Jibiya-Maradi in Niger Republic.

The line has been designed to pass close to major cities, town and villages without dividing them to facilitate public transportation and to stimulate the development of the agricultural economy and manufacturing industries along the corridor as well reduce the cost development.

The project is planned to have a total of 15 stations including Maradi which comprises 2 main stations in Kano and Katsina, 3 medium stations in Kazaure, Daura and Jibiya, 3 small stations in Shagalle, Dambatta and Mashi, with other Halt stations at the Airport,  Kunya Dube,Muduru, Daddara, Anoal Mata and Maradi.

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The rail line which has a branch line to Kano-Dutse is important because of it’s potential in harnessing raw materials and agro products along the corridor.

“The project when completed will serve domestic industries and play the role of a viable transportation backbone, linking countries in the West Africa sub-region starting with the neighbouring Niger Republic for their import and export logistics chain.

“In the process, the volume of trade in the country will increase while promoting the realisation of Nigeria’s interest on the Africa Free Trade Single Market Area formulation.

“ The railway will account for average freight carriage forecast of 1,043,980.5 tons annually in the first 10years of operation within its short corridor and a forecast of average passenger traffic of 3,543,637.9 annually within the same period.

“A geometrical increase in this service is expected when it is linked to the South Nigeria port of Apapa, Tin-can Island and Warri is realised by the construction of Lagos-Kano and Abuja-Itakpe respectively to average forecast of 2.2Million tons annually and passenger traffic of average of 5.1million.”

The main agricultural crops grown in commercial quantity along the corridor are groundnuts, cassava,yam,potatoes, millet,  maize, rice, beans, as food crops and livestock include cattle, sheep, goat and poultry.

The total population of the three states concerned by the new line which is Kano, Katsina and Maradi has 19,563,874 inhabitants in 2006 and was estimated at 22,166,543 in 2010, which by estimated annual growth rate of 2.7 percent will amount to 28,933,988 in 2020 which represents 14 percent of the total population of Nigeria.

The ground breaking which will be done by President, Muhammadu Buhari  will be attended by the Minister of transportation of Niger, Governors, Ambassadors, Ministers, of both countries and other important stakeholders in the sector.

Covid: Two tests for all UK arrivals during quarantine - BBC

FEBRUARY 09, 2021

All travellers entering the UK will be required to take two coronavirus tests while quarantining in an attempt to prevent variants entering the country.

Arrivals are expected to be required to get a test on days two and eight of their 10-day quarantine period.

The Department of Health said the move would provide a "further level of protection", enabling authorities to track new cases more effectively.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock will set out more details in the Commons later.

It is in addition to the current rules which say travellers arriving in the UK, whether by boat, train or plane, must show proof of a negative Covid-19 test to be allowed entry.

This test must be taken in the 72 hours before travelling, and anyone arriving without one faces a fine of up to £500, with Border Force officials carrying out spot checks.

The "test to release scheme" where travellers from non-red list countries can leave home isolation after a negative test on day five will stay.

The government has not confirmed whether passengers will be expected to use the gold-standard and more expensive PCR tests or cheaper lateral flow devices.

Travellers must provide contact details and their UK address. They can then travel - by public transport if necessary - to the place where they plan to self-isolate.

Meanwhile, from 15 February, UK residents and Irish nationals arriving from certain countries will have to quarantine in hotels.

Passengers will have to stay in their rooms for 10 nights, with security guards accompanying if they go outside.

The rules will apply to UK nationals and residents arriving from 33 "red list" Covid-19 hotspots - mostly in South America and Africa - where it's feared Covid variants may have already spread. Passengers will be expected to pay for the cost of the accommodation.

Non-UK travellers who have been in these countries in the 10 days before travelling are banned from entry.

Another layer on top of an already layered travel policy.

Regardless of where travellers arrive from outside of the UK and Ireland, they will be required to take at least one test during their time in quarantine. That's in addition to the test passengers already need to take in the 72 hours before they travel to the U.K.

The type and number of tests that will be required has not been confirmed by the government, although there's speculation that arrivals will need to take one test on the 2nd day of quarantine and another on the 8th day.

There are questions about when and how this policy will be enforced, as well as who will pay for the tests.

The aviation industry has expressed concern that if more layers are added to the policy, it will take longer for business to return.

It comes as England's deputy chief medical officer warned it was soon to say to what extent people could begin to start planning summer holidays.

Speaking at Monday's coronavirus briefing, Prof Jonathan Van-Tam said: "The more elaborate your plans are for summer holidays, in terms of crossing borders, in terms of household mixing, given where we are now, I think we just have to say the more you are stepping into making guesses about the unknown at this point," he said.

"I can't give people a proper answer at this point because we don't yet have the data. It is just too early to say."

Lockdown rules mean people must only travel abroad for essential reasons. These are the same as the "reasonable excuses" for domestic travel, including:

  • Work that cannot be done from home
  • Medical appointments
  • Educational reasons

People leaving England will soon have to make a declaration on why they need to travel, which will be checked by carriers prior to departure.

Speaking about the new testing plans, a Department of Health and Social Care said it was "important the government continues to take the necessary steps to protect people and save lives".

A spokesman added: "Enhancing our testing regime to cover all arrivals while they isolate will provide a further level of protection and enable us to better track any new cases which might be brought into the country, and give us even more opportunities to detect new variants."



COVID-19: FG govt places travel restrictions on 100 Nigerians - DAILY POST

FEBRUARY 09, 2021

The Federal Government has placed a travel restriction on 100 Nigerians from international trips for flouting COVID-19 guidelines.

This was announced by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 via its Twitter handle on Tuesday.

The PTF also released the passport details of the defaulters, stating that they have been restricted from travelling for six months.

“Presidential Task Force sanctions 100 Passports in Second Batch of those who failed to comply with the mandatory Day 7 post-arrival COVID-19 Test.

“They have been placed on a six-month travel restriction from February 5 to July 30, 2021,” the tweet said.

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