CCR welcomes opening of door to more privately sponsored refugees

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Canadian Council for Refugees
Media release

For immediate release
 21 July 2010

CCR welcomes opening of door to more privately sponsored refugees

The Canadian Council for Refugees today welcomed the federal government’s increased commitment to privately sponsored refugees.  As a result, community organizations across the country are now able to help more refugees find a safe home in Canada.

“Around the world there are hundreds of thousands of refugees in need of protection and a permanent home,” said Wanda Yamamoto, CCR President.  “Many Canadians are keen to do their part to respond: we are delighted that the government is opening the door wider so that more refugees can be resettled to Canada through the private sponsorship program.”

In 2009, there was a significant increase in the number of privately sponsored refugees resettled to Canada: 5,036, the highest number in a year since 1992. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration in March also promised to increase by 2,000 the numbers of refugees that private sponsorship groups can assist, and is encouraging more groups to sponsor refugees.

The CCR notes however that the government needs to ensure that the process is fair and efficient.  Currently refugees face extremely long processing times at some visa offices.  At Nairobi, the slowest office, privately sponsored refugees wait on average 39 months, often in unsafe and vulnerable situations. These long delays affect many refugees: fully one-third of private sponsorship applications pending at the end of 2009 were at the Nairobi office (5,444 applications out of total of 16,169).  Processing times need to be much shorter and equitable across all regions.

There continue also to be concerns about the quality of decision-making in some cases: applicants need to be treated fairly. Two years ago Citizenship and Immigration Canada conducted a Quality Assurance review of decisions in private sponsorship cases, but has yet to publish the report.

While the CCR welcomes the increases in numbers of resettled refugees, it objects to linking these increases to changes in the system for refugee claimants.  All refugees, wherever they are in the world, are equally deserving of protection and a durable solution.  In the case of claimants, Canada has international human rights obligations that must be honoured.

It is important to note that while numbers of privately sponsored refugees increased in 2009, the total number of refugees granted permanent residence in 2009 was low: 22,844, far below the average for the past decade of 28,000.  The CCR calls on the government to match the increase that it is asking from the private sector.

For more information about the delays at the Nairobi visa office, see Long delays at Nairobi visa office decried, 2 November 2009, http://www.ccrweb.ca/en/bulletin/09/11/02.

Contact:
Colleen French, Communication Coordinator, (514) 277-7223 ext. 1, cfrench@ccrweb.ca