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A Half Welcome, CPJ's 2017 report on private sponsorship issues in Canada highlights refugee sponsorship agreements holders' (SAHs) top concerns with federal government policy.
Canadians’ interest in private sponsorship has soared in response to the surge in refugees resulting from the Syrian civil war. Many citizens and permanent residents formed sponsorship Groups of Five, and some community groups also sponsored refugees. While this attention served to revitalize the PSRP, it also raised concerns about the efficiency of the program. It revealed the policy challenges which impact the ways private sponsors can engage with, and contribute to, Canada’s overall humanitarian efforts.
There are currently over 100 sponsorship agreement holders in Canada (excluding Quebec) and a large percentage of these are churches or church-connected groups.
CPJ's 2017 survey of these SAHs found the following major barriers to refugee resettlement in Canada:
Over 97% of the SAHs who responded to our study were concerned with the long wait period from when an application is filed and when it is assessed to the eventual arrival of the sponsored refugees. One SAH mentioned that some groups have been waiting for about six years to receive the families they are sponsoring.
Recommendation: The government must ensure that SAH, Groups of 5, and Community Sponsor applications are processed in a timely manner. Additional financial and personnel resources should be allocated to processing centres to speed up processing times.
Many also call for attention to the long wait currently impacting many non-Syrian applications, considering the government’s plan to resettle many Syrian refugees in 2015 and 2016. SAHs consider this to be inequity in private sponsorship, and urge the government to ensure more balance in this regard.
Recommendation: The processing of backlogged applications from global visa posts should be the government’s priority for the next three years.
There is an incredible surge in private sponsorship interest, but there are not enough spots to sponsor refugees. SAHs raised concerns about the allocation limits placed on the resettlement of privately sponsored refugees in 2017, noting that this impedes refugees’ opportunities for safety.
Recommendation: The government must provide SAHs with a three-year levels plan that provides estimates on the number of refugees from all sponsorship categories to be resettled within this period.
The loan repayment program is still inequitably implemented. The government offers refugees a loan to cover transportation costs to Canada, medical exams, fees for travel documents, and other service fees. They must begin to repay the loans within 30 days of their arrival in Canada. Currently, only Government Assisted Syrian Refugees do not have to repay travel loans.
Recommendation: The government must totally waive the loan repayment requirement for all refugees, to ensure that the program treats all refugees fairly.