Thousands of Syrian refugee families are stuck in limbo despite being matched with Canadian private sponsors ready to welcome them here.
In an article for the Toronto Star, two members of a private sponsorship group have 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 else they can find shelter.
In Numbers: Syrian Refugees In Canada
|Refugee category||Number of refugees|
|Blended Visa Office-Referred||3,085|
Source: Canadian government
“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 write.
“Since then their security clearance process has dragged on and on, without explanation.”
McGregor is an executive member of Canada4Refugees, an organization representing sponsors here in Canada. It estimates there are at least 7,500 Syrian families stuck in this situation.
Meanwhile, in Canada, private sponsors have rented and furnished apartments which currently lie empty in anticipation of the arrival of these Syrian families.
Urquhart and McGregor accused the Canadian government of dramatically reducing staff numbers after the government target of 25,000 refugees was successfully met in February.
The pair writes: “As a result, the flow of Syrian refugees has slowed to a trickle, and the families backed by private sponsorship groups are now on indefinite hold.”
The article continues: “We can do better, and the solution is clear. Even as longer term policy discussions continue, the government must redeploy sufficient resources to clear the backlog, and it must produce a realistic timetable that refugee families and their sponsors can depend upon.”
Immigration Minister John McCallum was in New York recently, talking up the Canadian private sponsorship system as a blueprint for the world to follow in terms of welcoming refugees.
He admits the process has not been without its teething problems, but hopes to meet the target of welcoming 25,000 government sponsored refugees by the end of 2016.
A leader of one of the foremost groups privately sponsoring Syrian refugees recently described the process as ‘flawed’.
Patricia Paul-Carson, the co-chair of the Syrian Refugee Sub Group at the First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa, says there are 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.
Private sponsors are also being given the chance to swap their allocated Syrian families for those who have been processed and are ready to come to Canada.
Now the sponsors are left with the dilemma of whether to stick with the families they have been waiting for – sometimes for a year or more – or switch to people who have their bags packed and are ready to arrive.
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