Several of the world’s leading countries could copy Canada’s private refugee sponsorship program following its success in bringing in thousands of Syrian refugees.
Nearly 14,000 Syrians were privately sponsored between November 4, 2015 and December 19, 2016, as Canadians responded to a growing crisis caused by a bitter civil war in the Middle Eastern country.
Officials from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Chile, Germany, New Zealand, and the U.S. attended a conference in Ottawa in December aimed at learning how the model works, and how it could be applied in their countries.
Private sponsorship has been used here since the 1970s, but shot to prominence as Canadians lined up to help Syrians over the last year.
Canada’s attitude to welcoming Syrians was lauded around the world in late 2015 and throughout 2016, as the federal government made good on an election promise to bring in 25,000 refugees by last February.
Syrian Refugees Arrived in Canada Since December 10, 2015
|Blended Visa Office-Referred||3,877|
Source: Government of Canada
The overall figure now sits at 38,713 as the process continues, albeit at a slower pace.
As other countries, including Britain and the U.S., have been gripped by support for anti-immigration, protectionist policies, Canada has become a beacon for exactly the opposite attitude under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
However, the process of welcoming and integrating such a wave of refugees has not been without its problems and challenges.
The government recently announced it will limit the number of private sponsorship refugee applications it receives for Syrians and Iraqis to 1,000 in 2017, as it looks to clear the backlog already in the system.
The limit will apply to both Groups of Five and Community Sponsors, according to a new public policy from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
The move comes following complaints from private sponsors with applications already in the system and families ready to move, that they have been left waiting for months and years for the paperwork to be processed.
Once the backlog is cleared, the target processing time will be 12 months.
While the move will mean less new applications are received in 2017, IRCC hopes it will mean the paperwork will be processed more quickly.
As the anniversary of the arrival of the first Syrians to Canada went by in December 2016, the early newcomers without jobs began claiming via provincial social benefits channels instead of refugee-specific funds.
The reality is setting in concerning the difficulties of integrating into a new life and, most importantly, entering the workforce.
“Those of us who were at the airport that day with Prime Minister Trudeau will never forget the moving experience of welcoming Syrian newcomers with warm hearts and winter coats,” said Immigration Minister John McCallum on the day of the anniversary.
“Millions of Canadians were equally moved as they followed media coverage of the event, and over the past year, they have enthusiastically greeted the arrival of resettled Syrian refugees in communities from coast to coast to coast.
“Canadians from all walks of life joined in what was truly a national project to resettle Syrian refugees. Every effort, big and small, from volunteers, service providers, sponsors, corporate Canada and so many others, combined to make an enormous difference.”
The government admitted in October that the number of Syrian refugee children arriving in the last year came as a surprise.
McCallum said the large number of children ‘was not completely anticipated’, with schools especially struggling to cope with the influx of new students.
Teachers in New Brunswick were overwhelmed by the sudden influx of Syrian refugee students in early 2016, leading to chaos in some classrooms, according to a report.
Schools were not prepared for new students who hadn’t been educated regularly for years, did not speak English and came from war-torn areas of the Middle East.
The result was a whirlwind of poor behaviour, bullying and problems surrounding gender roles as teachers were left to deal with a difficult adjustment phase often without the help of translators.
School staff said they had no idea how many students would be arriving meaning preparation was impossible and all teachers could do was react to the situation as it developed.
Extra funding to hire more staff eventually alleviated the problem.