University of New Brunswick gives refugee status to travel ban victims

The University of New Brunswick (UNB) has announced that they will provide assistance to students affected by the U.S. travel ban. On March 2, the university said in a news release they would  “treat applicants as refugees.”

UNB has previously worked with refugee applicants with individuals arriving from Syria providing community outreach to new immigrants.

George MacLean, vice-president (academic) at the UNB, said in an email “this will be the first time in recent memory that UNB had in place a response to a specific set of potential students.”

The measures put in place include waiving application fees for refugees, providing additional orientation, and guaranteeing space in their residence to people from the affected countries, according to the news release. By treating these students as refugees, the university said their acceptance process will move along faster and allow for more flexibility in handling program requirements and documentation.

According to the release, the measures were initially created in response to the original travel ban late last January, and the university is now implementing the increased assistance in preparation for the newly proposed version of the travel prohibitions. The new ban was put on hold by a federal judge on March 15, only hours before it was set to take effect, according to CBC. 

The first executive order barred individuals from predominantly Islamic countries from entering the United States for a period of 90 days. Introduced on January 27, the act drew outspoken criticism for its apparent xenophobic origin and hasty implementation, and was quickly suspended less than two weeks after its introduction.

Other universities have made similar commitments in the wake of the White House Administration’s travel ban. The University of Calgary, University of Winnipeg, and Brock University, have said they will waive applicant fees and provide additional support to these students, but have not extended the term “refugee,” which would allow for the further monetary and support benefits that UNB will be offering.

Carleton University offered its support to students affected by the first ban in February, including logistical assistance to travel plans for students returning home and during exchange programs.

While Carleton, like many other Canadian universities, has not deemed students from affected travel ban countries as “refugees,” there have been other efforts made by students to help their fellow scholars looking to cross the border.

Recently, students at McGill University in Montreal organized a research event with 800 participants from all 22 of Canada’s law schools to review legal arguments for individuals affected by the travel ban. Organizers have since released a report calling for the Government of Canada to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement, which requires people to apply for asylum in the first country where they arrive, unless an immediate family member lives in the other country.