Statement on Blended Visa Office Referred Refugees

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The principle of additionality is fundamental to the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program. Privately sponsored refugees are over and above the refugees resettled by the government (Government Assisted Refugees). Canadians want to know that their government is fulfilling its responsibility, on behalf of all Canadians, to protect refugees through resettlement, and that any refugees they sponsor are additional to those resettled by the government.

This principle has been compromised in recent years. This is seen clearly in the matter of Blended Visa Office Referred (BVOR) refugees, who are supported jointly by the government and private sponsors (hence they are a “blend” of Private Sponsorship and Government Assistance).

The government introduced the Blended Visa Office Referred (BVOR) program with an explicit trade-off in the numbers of Government Assisted Refugees: “CIC plans increase the number of PSRs to be resettled in a year by 1,000, which will replace an equivalent number of government-assisted refugees.”[1] Thus, Canadians who stepped up to sponsor BVORs were not adding to the number of refugees resettled: they were rather saving the government money.

The Liberal campaign promise was worded in such a way that it seemed to commit to respect the principle of additionality: “Expand Canada’s intake to 25,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq through immediate, direct sponsorship by the government of Canada AND work with private sponsors to intake even more.”

We are therefore very disappointed that the Government has decided to count BVORs towards the 25,000 refugees brought by the government. Our position is that they should count as no more than 50%, since private sponsors are assuming at least half the costs (and work).

2016 is an exceptional year in refugee resettlement to Canada and we recognize that there are many challenges in managing the sudden increase in numbers, the overwhelming level of engagement of Canadians and the capacities of UNHCR and the Canadian government to identify and process refugees.

Nevertheless, we call on the government to commit to the principle of additionality by ensuring that BVORs are not counted as Government Assisted Refugees, or at least not more than 50% toward the GAR target. In that way private sponsors will know they are supporting additional refugees, and not simply substituting and subsidizing the government commitment.

21 July 2016

 

[1]  Citizenship and Immigration Canada,  Departmental Performance Report, For the period ending March 31, 2012, http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/publications/dpr/2012/dpr.asp#strategic2-5