Nine months ago, Canada’s federal government announced plans to welcome 1,300 refugees from Syria by the end of 2014. So far, only about 200 government-sponsored Syrians have been brought into the process and only 10 have actually been relocated to Canada from refugee camps in neighbouring countries. The government is relying on churches and other private sponsorship organizations to sponsor the remaining 1,100.
Churches that know of Syrian refugees can act now to sponsor them to come to Canada.
Sponsorship of Syrian refugees is in addition to the cap placed on the number of refugees that Sponsorship Agreement Holders like the CBWC can sponsor. No refugee applicants from other countries will be bumped down the sponsorship list because of Syrian refugees. Last year, the CBWC was given a cap of 8 refugees to sponsor but the limit for 2014 has not yet been set.
The process to get refugees to Canada takes 9-12 months. The Canadian government has not yet created an accelerated program for Syrian refugees but did so for refugees from Kosovo in 1999.
The United Nations High Council for Refugees believes that Syrians fleeing the civil war will become the largest refugee population in the world and the biggest humanitarian crisis in history, with more than 4 million refugees by the end of 2014 – more refugees than during the Rwandan genocide. An estimated 10 million people inside Syria are homeless – almost half of Syria’s population. More than 2 million children have stopped going to school in the chaos as towns are bombarded and are overrun again and again by government and rebel forces. Food shortages, lack of medical care and lack of security are widespread as the horrors of the civil war increase.
Canada has not yet announced if it will accept more Syrian refugees beyond its original pledge. In contrast, Sweden has already settled 14,000 refugees and given them permanent status.
Contact Rod Olson, the CBWC’s Coordinator for Refugees and Uprooted Peoples for more information on sponsorship at email@example.com.