Last Updated on December 17, 2020

Temporary workers from Trinidad & Tobago stranded in Canada due to COVID-19 restrictions in their country have been given access to open work permits.

A temporary public policy, in effect until February 12, 2021, allows the agricultural workers to apply for temporary status and get a six-month open work permit.

The step makes them eligible to apply for other jobs to access health care and apply for employment insurance.

“While Canada continues to discuss solutions with the government of Trinidad & Tobago to enable the workers to return home, this public policy ensures they can maintain their legal status if they remain in Canada through the winter months,” a statement from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said.

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Initially, the workers – estimated to number 400 in Ontario and Alberta – did not have access to employment insurance because of the conditions of their employer-specific work permits. It meant they were left to rely on donations for shelter, food and warm clothes as winter set in.

In a tweet, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said Canada was committed to continued assistance for the group of workers

“We will continue to do all that we can to support these workers until they can get home,” he said.

Temporary workers were quickly given exemptions to Canada’s travel restrictions imposed in March due to the outbreak of coronavirus.

Canada relies on an influx of temporary workers each year to work in food-related industries including farming.

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