January 9, 2019 3:53 pm
Updated: January 9, 2019 3:54 pm

New U of A study suggests some Syrian refugees ‘abandoned’ by private sponsors

Garouj Nazarian, left, a Syrian refugee, works at Seatuply as owner Levon Aseyan looks on, Monday, January 18, 2016 in Montreal. The plywood company employs and helps integrate refugees from around the world.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

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New research from the University of Alberta suggests that Syrian refugees have had a vast range of experiences in privately sponsored Canadian resettlement programs.

The study, conducted by U of A scientists, found that the experiences of Syrian refugees in privately sponsored programs have ranged from integration to abandonment.

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The study organized privately sponsored refugees during their first year in Canada into three categories: those receiving community support, those receiving the minimum requirements of support and those who had been “abandoned.”

“Those sponsored by well-resourced groups — such as church groups — received extensive support in every aspect of their settlement to the point that the care often far exceeded what the government-sponsored refugees received,” said Sandeep Agrawal, lead author and professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.

READ MORE: Obstacles remain for Syrian refugees to gain Canadian citizenship

However, Agrawal said that some of the sponsored refugees were not sufficiently supported by their sponsors.

“These sponsors did not have the means and/or the time to adequately support their matched refugees,” he said.

The researchers said the study is vital because nearly half of Syrian refugees are in private programs.

“The significance of this research is to correct the prevailing view in favour of privately sponsored programs,” Agrawal said. “The resettlement experience of refugees in this program varies considerably.”

READ MORE: Syrian refugee in Edmonton creates business opportunity with specialty nut store

WATCH BELOW: Sponsors brought a Syrian refugee and his family to Edmonton just 18 months ago. Since then, they’ve not only adjusted to life in the city but also opened a store in the north end. 

The research also provided recommendations to improve the experiences of refugees involved in such programs.

The researchers suggest that private sponsorship should also require settlement services, such as finding employment and access to language classes, rather than leaving resources up to private sponsors.

“This will even out the disparity of settlement experiences among privately sponsored refugees,” Agrawal said. “This recommendation is important because almost half of Syrian refugees have come through private sponsorship, and the numbers through private programs will most likely increase.”

READ MORE: Is Canada’s reputation as a safe haven for refugees deserved?

The researchers also recommend that religious institutions offer cultural and religious services.

“We should also consider the blended program as possibly a better way forward, with both government and private sponsors helping refugees, each for a given period of time,” Agrawal said.

“This composite approach could offset the deficits inherent in each single approach.”

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