FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE: 17 September, 2015
By: Margaret Rao, CUSJ President
Changes to refugee process needed if Canada is to make real impact on refugee crisis
TORONTO – Key changes are urgently needed if Canada is to open its doors wide enough to make a difference in the current Syrian refugee crisis.
“Amendments to Canada’s refugee regime over the last few years have made it much harder to bring refugees in need to Canada,” said Margaret Rao, President of Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice (CUSJ). “We’ve seen the federal government shirk its duty for bringing refugees to safety, shifting responsibility for support and settlement on to private sponsors. Unfortunately, the rules they have set up are now frustrating those same private sponsors and are effectively blocking most refugees from qualifying or entering the country.”
The ongoing refugee crisis in Syria and Iraq came to the fore of public debate this month with the worldwide publication of the body of three year old Aylan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach. His family tried to get to Europe after other members of his family were denied entry into Canada.
“Canadians are a compassionate people,” said Rao. “They want to help. But the many churches, non-profits and citizens groups that have stepped forward to help are being frustrated by red tape and an unresponsive government. CUSJ calls on the government to make specific changes:
- Immediately increase staff at Citizenship & Immigration Canada offices in Winnipeg, where ‘Group of 5’ (G5) private sponsorship applications are processed, and at Canadian visa offices such as Ankara, Amman and Beirut so that refugee applications can be processed in a timely manner. The G5 process has all but ground to a halt…and applications through some visa offices take more than five years to process.
- Drop the discriminatory ‘durable solution’ policy whereby refugees who have made it to a ‘safe country’ (such as Europe) are automatically ineligible to apply as a refugee to Canada – even if their spouses or other family members have been accepted to Canada and settled.
- Greatly increase the number of Syrians and Iraqis on Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) refugee lists so Canadian private sponsors can identify refugees needing help. One of the biggest problems faced by sponsor groups today is identifying Syrian refugees to sponsor.
- Step up and immediately increase the number of government sponsored refugees. The response by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration – 2,300 brought to Canada over the last two years and plans for just 3,000 a year going forward – are completely inadequate to the scale of the problem. More than four million Syrian refugees have now fled to neighbouring countries, according to UNHCR estimates.”
Unitarians have a long history of sponsoring refugees into Canada, starting with the Underground Railroad for slaves in the 1800s and increasing their efforts substantially when Vietnamese boat people fled the war in Vietnam. CUSJ is a national faith-based organization founded to support Unitarian values through social action.
For more information:
Margaret Rao, CUSJ President: Tel. 416-658-0998