Trying to sponsor a Syrian refugee is like knocking your head against a stone wall, according to a prominent figure in one of the leading Canadian committees offering support.
Patricia Paul-Carson says the process is flawed, communication is poor and some of the federal government policies are ‘bizarre’.
In an article for the Ottawa Citizen, the co-chair of the Syrian Refugee Sub Group at the First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa, highlights issues with the way refugees are allocated, the forms they need to fill out, a lack of clarity on when they will arrive and the vast difference in treatment between government and privately-sponsored subjects.
“We remain frustrated with the implementation of the refugee project,” Paul-Carson wrote.
“The government needs to act quickly,” she added.
|Refugees in numbers|
|26,506||Syrians admitted to Canada since Liberals came to power in November|
|30,000||more refugees set to arrive in 2016|
|11,000||refugees privately sponsored by Canadians|
|$27,000||per family of four: Amount it costs to settle refugees over course of a year|
Paul-Carson’s committee has directly assisted three Syrian families to the tune of $150,000, and at the same time is helping five private groups sponsor a family each.
Simply getting paired with a family is the first challenge, with a government list issued online at a random time that sponsors must reply to within five minutes.
“Sponsors must glue themselves to their computer,” Paul-Carson wrote. “The competition is fierce; there are more potential sponsors than available refugees.”
The next issue is the form families must fill out and the guide telling them what to do are not available in Arabic, the only language spoken by many of the refugees.
Then, while the timeline is clear on applications filed before March 31, there is zero communication on how long those submitted after that will take to process.
“Will it be one, two or three years? Nobody seems to know,” Paul-Carson wrote. “Volunteers do not know if they will be available in a few years and those of us signing applications worry how we will manage.
She added: “The most bizarre government policy is having three silos of refugees, which are not interchangeable. The first silo receives help from government alone, the other two get some or all their help from private sponsors.
“The result is that some government assisted refugees have been housed in hotels, while apartments rented by private sponsors, who understood their families were arriving imminently, are standing empty because of the slowdown in processing refugees.”
As a result, she says, there now exist two classes of refugee, the government-assisted families going to food banks and those helped private who dine at the tables of their sponsors.
“The government should have one pool of refugees, sending them first to private sponsors, and then sponsoring any remaining refugees itself,” Paul-Carson wrote.
“No one feels entitled to a family, but we do feel entitled to consistent, effective policies and practices as well as accurate, complete information that will facilitate the work the government has encouraged us to do.”
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