Roughly 2,700 Syrian refugees are expected to come to B.C. in the coming weeks. This is part of the Liberals pledge to resettle 25,000 people fleeing the civil war in Syria by the end of 2015. It’s a promise that will require extensive logistical support from the new government.
Government-assisted Syrian refugees
With the influx of refugees — three times the amount the province takes in each year — there will be a need for 1,500 units of long-term affordable housing, according to Chris Friesen, settlement services director with the Immigrant Services Society of B.C.
On Tuesday, the Immigrant Services Society of B.C. website will have information for people wanting to help the refugees. People interested in offering housing or providing employment opportunities or offering their services as an Arabic translator or trauma counsellor can head to their website for more information. There is also a need for health and dental professionals.
The 25,000 government-assisted refugees covers a slice of the crisis. Other ways people are choosing to be involved with the Syrian refugee crisis involves private sponsorship. Year to date, Friesen says there are 5,600 privately-sponsored refugees currently in the process of coming to Canada and they will be in direct competition with the 25,000 government-assisted refugees for resources.
Ways people are choosing to help refugees through private sponsorship include:
What’s involved in becoming a private sponsor for a refugee?
Sponsoring a refugee is a significant commitment both financially and emotionally.
An individual or a group can sponsor refugees from abroad, who qualify to come to Canada. According to the government of Canada website, private sponsorships help thousands of refugees every year.
As a sponsor, you would provide financial and emotional support for the refugees for the duration of their sponsorship, which typically lasts one year or some may be eligible for up to three years assistance. Support includes help for housing, clothing and food.
Most private sponsors tend to be community organizations, churches or groups that hold a sponsorship agreement to help support refugees resettle in Canada. While the organization does not pick up the cost of the sponsorship, they do take care of all the paperwork.
A complete list of private sponsorship agreement holders in Canada can be found here.
Also, groups of five or more Canadian citizens or permanent residents over 18 years of age can also sponsor one or more refugees to come to Canada and settle in their area.
Organizations coordinating private refugee sponsorship
There are several organizations operating in Canada coordinating refugee sponsorship.
Organizations like the Toronto-based group Lifeline Syria, who is looking to recruit, train and assist sponsor groups to support 1,000 Syrian refugees coming to Canada. Since the Syrian refugee crisis has escalated, they have been flooded with calls and emails interested in sponsoring families.
According to Alexandra Kotyk, a Lifeline Syria project manager, a family of four costs $27,000, which she acknowledges, is a lot of money up front. But Kotyk said it’s used to support the family for a full year. It’s also the minimum requirement the government says you have to fundraise in order to sponsor a family.
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:
~ with files from Andrew Russell and Anna Mehler Paperny