English Classes for Asylum Seekers

The Cause

We are looking for funding to provide Basic English classes for refugee claimants or asylum seekers in Edmonton, as they have very limited options for affordable English classes compared to Permanent Residents (PRs) and Citizens, due to their indeterminate immigration status.

Since September 2022, our school has had long waiting lists for the beginner level English language classes. Even with our continuous enrollment policy, the waiting list keeps growing. For example, in January 2023 we had 152 students waiting for all classes and as of September 2023 this number almost doubled to 289! The is due to record high immigration numbers in general and those fleeing the war in Ukraine as well as exceptionally high numbers of refugee claimants and asylum seekers.

Refugee claimants or asylum seekers are those individuals who have claimed refugee protection in Canada (from war, conflict, or persecution etc.) and are waiting for a hearing date with the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) to find out if their claim has been approved. This process usually takes more than two years.

Many government funded settlement agencies are restricted to register refugee claimants, therefore they refer them to CCI-LEX as they know we can register them in our LEX program; however, we can only accommodate them if there are no PRs or Citizens waiting to enroll, as per funding rules set by the Government of Alberta. Due to an overall increase of immigration numbers, PRs and citizens are also experiencing wait times for the LEX program (and other programs in Edmonton). This in turn means refugee claimants face excessive wait times - close to 6 months to join our classes compared to 1.5 months for PRs and citizens.

Since most refugee claimants waiting for our classes (90%) have low-level English skills, it is essential for them to have access to flexible and affordable opportunities while waiting for their hearing, as most receive permission to work during this period. Lack of English language skills profoundly affects their employability and participation in the community, putting them at risk for social isolation and poverty.

With additional support, our LEX program will be able to provide English classes specifically for refugee claimants to shorten the time they need to wait for classes. CCI-LEX is well-positioned to address this need as it already has a robust curriculum, certified teachers, and the physical space to provide classes for refugee claimants.

Who Will it Benefit?

Asylum seekers or refugee claimants in Edmonton who have few options for English language classes due to their tenuous immigration status.

Most refugee claimants waiting for our classes (90%) have very low-level English skills. Unlike other Newcomers, for refugee claimants immigration was not a matter of choice but survival. As a result, they are often ill prepared to come to Canada in terms of English language skills and lack connections with family members and other social supports in Canada. The long waiting times for hearing with IRB cause extra stress and uncertainty for them as well.

Therefore, it is essential for refugee claimants to have access to flexible and affordable English classes that also provides a safe and welcoming environment to learn, improve their employability and build networks while waiting for their hearing.

In addition, long waiting lists for English language classes are not unique to CCI-LEX, as other language providers in Edmonton are currently facing the same challenge due to high immigration in general, as well as high numbers of Ukrainians and other asylum seekers coming into Canada. As Edmonton's only (and largest) drop-in center for English language classes, our LEX Program plays a unique role in filling the learning gaps experienced by refugee claimants, thereby supporting the overall English language learning infrastructure in the Edmonton community. The ability to offer classes specific to refugee claimants will help alleviate some of the stresses that the system is facing.