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TORONTO – A photo of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, facedown drowned on a beach, stunned the world and focused attention on a refugee crisis that has displaced millions of people.
UN Refugee Agency spokesperson Babar Baloch told Global News the refugee crisis has been an ongoing human tragedy that killed more than 7,000 people in the past year alone.
“These are refugees that have been through a lot. Wars in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries as well. They are coming to seek international protection in other countries and our call is provide them with more legal avenues so they don’t end up giving themselves to the ruthless smugglers and the traffickers,” Baloch said.
“This incident is just shocking. As a father or two, as a human being, as a humanitarian, it is quite just frustrating for us to see this being repeated again and again and again.”
Canada’s political parties have come under pressure to commit more assistance to the refugee crisis and allow more refugees into Canada.
The Canadian Council for Refugees and Amnesty International Canada called Thursday for the federal government to lift barriers preventing families from reuniting.
They also called for less stringent documentation requirements, temporary resident permits to help expedite such cases and a commitment to a minimum of 10,000 government-assisted resettlement places for Syrians to be brought to Canada immediately.
Amnesty sent an open letter to Conservative leader Stephen Harper urging Canada to do more.
“Canada must act decisively and generously in opening up safety for the growing number of refugees who are faced with the impossible choice of remaining in desperate conditions in refugee camps or of making terrifying journeys and risking their lives to escape endless suffering,” Amnesty wrote.
Amnesty and the refugee council also called on the federal government to restore interim federal health coverage, whose cuts a court called “cruel and unusual.”
In the meantime, many individuals have been moved to help on their own.
Here are some things you can do:
The United Nations’ refugee organization is mandated to “lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide.”
Donate to an international aid organization
There’s no shortage of groups working to help people displaced by conflicts such as the civil war ripping Syria apart. Here are a few:
Donate to, or support, a refugee assistance agency in Canada
Many organizations in Canada are advocating for people trying to make it to Canada or assisting people already here with what’s often an agonizing transition. Here are some of them:
Sponsor a refugee
This is a much more significant commitment. But if you or a group you’re involved with is up for it, here’s how. Here’s a list of organizations already privately sponsoring refugees.
Groups of five Canadian citizens or permanent residents who are 18 or older can sponsor refugees and their dependents.
Lifeline Syria is also coordinating refugee sponsorship.