OTTAWA — Canada is giving some failed asylum seekers from Russia a chance to stave off deportation, saying conditions in that country have changed.
The Immigration Department says reports of violence against the LGBTQ community in Chechnya mean people could be at risk if they're forced to return.
The department says that means people from Russia may now be eligible for a pre-removal risk assessment if they received a final decision on their case between July 1, 2016, and June 30 of this year.
The PRRA, as it is known, allows those slated for deportation to argue they cannot be sent back to their country of origin for safety reasons.
Currently, people whose asylum claims are not accepted can't apply for a PRRA for at least 12 months, but the immigration minister has the authority to exempt some or all people from that restriction.
Refugee advocates have been pushing the Liberal government to make it easier for members of the Russian LGBTQ community to get to and stay in Canada after reports emerged earlier this year that gay and bisexual men were being imprisoned and tortured in Chechnya.
The Liberals had condemned what they called "serious human rights violations" back in the spring and urged Russia to investigate, but stopped short of meeting the demands for a targeted asylum program aimed at those trying to get out of the country.
The Immigration Department announced the change in policy Friday.
"Reports of violence against members of the LGBTQ2 community in Chechnya has resulted in a change of country conditions within the Chechen Republic in Russia," the notice said.
"As a result, individuals from Russia are exempted from the one-year bar on accessing a PRRA as individuals could face a situation of risk that may warrant an additional assessment. It is important to note that the ability to apply for PRRA does not guarantee the outcome of the risk assessment."
The department also says that those who have not received a final decision on their claim as of June 30 will still be barred from applying for the assessment, as current country conditions will be taken into account when the decision is made on their claim.