Thank you for the $100m matching grant but what about Syrian refugee resettlement?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – September 14, 2015
Vancouver, BC

While we applaud the Government ‘s decision to establish a $100m matching grant, our member agencies continue to hear from Canadians and the plea from Syrians in Canada for the Government of Canada to increase the number of Syrian refugees to this country this year. Syrians in this country are desperate to be reunited with their extended family members abroad.

The public is asking the Government of Canada to help states in the Middle East (Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, in particular) that currently host the bulk of refugees in the region by prioritizing refugee resettlement in an expedited manner as requested by the UNHCR High Commissioner in February 2014 when he outlined an urgent appeal for 100,000 additional Syrian resettlement spaces – over and above current Government Assisted Refugee (GAR) targets –for 2015 and 2016.

Is history repeating itself? When a senior Canadian government official was asked how many Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany would Canada consider resettling, his response was “None Is Too Many”. Canada accepted 5,000 Jewish refugees over a 12 year period of the German Nazi regime –the lowest response of any western country at that time.

We ask the Government of Canada to:

  • Expedited extended family reunification. Syrians in Canada are desperate to be reunited with their extended family members who are currently internally displaced within Syria, in refugee camps in the Middle East as well as in Europe. The Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada should immediately set up a toll free number and simplified application process for this purpose;
  • We suggest that all extended relatives abroad with ties to Canada be immediately processed as government assisted refugees and that charter flights be arranged in the Middle East and Europe to expedite this process as we would do in an emergency situation involving the need to relocate Canadians abroad.
  • The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has the ability to issue Ministerial Directives – special instructions to immigration officers to enable the Government of Canada to best attain its humanitarian immigration goals. Ministerial Instructions (MIs) are typically issued for limited periods of time, and can touch on a diverse range of issues. We feel the time has come for the Minister to use his authority to expedite extended family reunification.
  • Immediately implement the pre-activation stage of Canada’s Emergency Refugee Contingency Plan. The refugee contingency plan clearly outlines the coordination roles and functions of various federal departments, provincial governments’, refugee
    serving agencies, and private sponsorship groups in response to refugee emergencies involving faster processing of large relocation movements;

    • Page 1 of the plan defines a refugee emergency as “Any situation in which the life or well-being of refugees will be threatened unless immediate and appropriate action is taken and which demand an extraordinary response and exceptional measures”
      We believe that the Syrian refugee crisis is a refugee emergency.
    • Thirty six (36) refugee reception centres across Canada that have been in place for over three (3) decades are on alert and ready to respond if called upon.
  • Remove the red tape and long processing times for private sponsorship of Syrians. While we believe that the Government of Canada must take responsible for the majority of
    refugee resettlement on behalf of all Canadians through the government assisted refugee stream, the process for private sponsorship must be simplified otherwise the current system will
    become further weakened. Over the past week there has been a continued outpouring of Canadians interested in the private sponsorship of refugees.

    • In order to facilitate private sponsorship faster we offer the following considerations:
      1. Reduce the red tape for sponsorship applications;
      2. Restore access to full Interim Federal Health coverage for privately sponsored refugees so that sponsors are not deterred by the risk of large medical costs;
      3. Eliminate the document requirements introduced in 2012 for Group of Five and Community Sponsorships. The requirement that sponsored refugees have proof of
        individual determination as a refugee by UNHCR or the local State prevents Syrians being sponsored under these categories. Given the scale of the crisis refugees are
        not receiving individual determinations in any of the countries in the region; and,
      4. Process applications quickly.

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