Sponsors frustrated by slowing pace of resettling Syrian refugees
Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Sponsors who responded to the government’s call to help Syrians are now being told waiting times for the arrival of the refugees they sponsored will be months longer than they expected.

As the government returns to a normal processing pace after hitting its goal of resettling 25,000 Syrians by the end of February, private sponsorship groups are frustrated by the increasing waiting times for resettling the newcomers. During the height of the government’s efforts to resettle 25,000 Syrians, all Syrian refugee applications were given priority and arrived within a few months of their application being received. Now, sponsors are being told they may not meet the refugees they sponsored until 2017.

Temporary processing centres established in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon to handle the 25,000 Syrian refugees are now closed and regional missions are in charge of processing, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

Peter Goodspeed, a board member at Lifeline Syria, said the government’s move to include Syrians in the annual caps on the number of private sponsorship applications it accepts in 2016 is slowing down processing times. Lifeline Syria is pushing the government to exclude Syrian refugees from the caps and continue to expeditiously process privately sponsored Syrian refugee applications.

“Allow Canadians themselves to decide how many they want to sponsor and help in this current crisis,” Mr. Goodspeed said in an e-mail. “That way we have the flexibility to respond to an urgent situation, which frankly we ignored for far too long under the previous government, while not jeopardizing attempts to clear the past backlog of long outstanding private sponsorships.”

According to the Canadian Refugee Sponsorship Agreement Holders Association, there are 10,500 spots for privately sponsored refugee applications in Canada this year; it’s not clear how many of those are for Syrians. The government itself has committed to sponsoring an additional 10,000 Syrian refugees this year. The Liberals set aside $245-million in this week’s federal budget for their resettlement over the next five years.

The Syrian crisis marked five years of bloodshed and displacement this month. The conflict has forced 4.8 million people to flee as refugees to neighbouring countries and hundreds of thousands to Europe, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

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Source: The Globe and Mail