Canada will limit the number of private sponsorship refugee applications it receives for Syrians and Iraqis to 1,000 in 2017, as the federal government 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.
Syrian Refugees Arrived in Canada Since December 10, 2015
|Blended Visa Office-Referred||3,877|
Source: Government of Canada
Thousands of Syrian refugee families are stuck in limbo despite being matched with Canadian private sponsors ready to welcome them here.
In September, two members of a private sponsorship group called on the government to devote resources to getting all those families matched up with sponsors into Canada on a timely basis.
Ian Urquhart and Ross McGregor say they can provide examples of families who were told back in February they would be moving in a few weeks, but are still languishing in camps or wherever they can find shelter.
“On the strength of that undertaking, they sold many of their belongings, paid to get out of their leased premises, and relocated to smaller, more expensive accommodation they could relinquish on very short notice,” Urquhart and McGregor wrote.
“Since then their security clearance process has dragged on and on, without explanation.”
The process of welcoming thousands of Syrian refugees to Canada reached a crucial juncture in December 2016 – as the year of resettlement support provided by both federal government and private sponsors started to come to an end.
As the anniversary of the arrival of the first Syrians to Canada went by, the early newcomers without jobs began claiming via provincial social benefits channels instead of refugee-specific funds.
Nearly 39,000 Syrians have entered Canada since December 10, 2015, when the image of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcoming refugees at Toronto’s Pearson Airport was beamed around the world.
Now 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.