Time for decisive leadership: A solution to expedite acceptance of Syrian refugees and reunite them with Canadian family

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Media release

For immediate release
10 September 2015

Time for decisive leadership: Refugee lawyers, human rights activists propose solution to expedite acceptance of Syrian refugees and reunite them with Canadian family
 

Syrian Canadians, Amnesty International, the Canadian Council for Refugees, and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers today called on the government to immediately issue Temporary Residence Permits (TRPs) for Syrians with family in Canada. The growing humanitarian crisis of Syrian refugees and the federal government’s failure to act innovatively and decisively is spurring advocates to propose its own solutions. The advocates say this would be a quick and effective way to ensure families are safe while their permanent resident applications are being processed inside Canada.

“The lengthy multi-year processing delays for family sponsorships are unacceptable and especially brutal for Syrian refugees facing dangerous conditions in Syria and neighboring countries,” said Lorne Waldman, Executive member of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers. “As other countries prepare urgent and bold plans to accept more refugees, Canada can and must do more than it is currently doing.”

Over the last several days we have seen a number of national governments respond with strong leadership and deep compassion. In Canada, private citizens, faith communities, and civic leaders are all responding with generosity and resolve. Unfortunately, the federal government appears intent on standing pat. This is unacceptable. In previous times federal governments of different stripes responded ambitiously. Canada airlifted 5,000 people from Kosovo in the late 1990s and it took in 60,000 from Vietnam in 1979-80. To date, Canada has accepted only 2,374 refugees from Syria during this current crisis.

The proposal offered today would allow for more Syrian refugees to get to Canada quickly, while providing for a more seamless integration and connection to their new surroundings. They could then go through the process of becoming a permanent resident. It is worth noting that even temporary visa applicants will go through security screening. Canada does security screenings for refugee claimants in time for their refugee hearing which may come 45 days after the claim is made. There is no reason that the same timeframe could not be met for applicants for TRPs.

This is not a new request. For nearly a year advocates have been urging the federal government to fix unnecessary delays to the family reunification program and seize the program as an opportunity to quickly and effectively welcome more Syrian refugees fleeing the crisis.

“Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the Canadian government to expedite the resettlement and admission processes for refugees from Syria, including facilitating family reunification,” said Gloria Nafziger of Amnesty International. “This tragedy has been developing over the past four years and it is unconscionable that Canada has not already implemented special measures to respond to this human need of catastrophic proportions”.

At a press conference in Toronto several Syrian Canadian families spoke about the obstacles and delays they have undergone – and are still dealing with – trying to bring their loved ones to Canada. The extent of the crisis appears limitless with men, women, and children literally dying to escape. Canada can and should be a safe haven, a beacon of hope for people suffering in unimaginable circumstances.

“It makes sense for Canada to open its doors to Syrians with family connections, since many Syrian Canadians are deeply anxious about family members, and having family here makes it is easier to settle,” said Loly Rico, President, Canadian Council for Refugees. “Like families everywhere, they want their children, spouses, parents, and siblings, to be safe and well. With the small change proposed today, we can bring some peace to these families.”

More information can also be found at carl-acaadr.ca, ccrweb.ca, and amnesty.ca.

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Contacts:

Christopher Holcroft , Principal, Empower Consulting, 416-996-0767, christopherholcroft@hotmail.ca

Elizabeth Berton-Hunter, Media and External Communications Officer, Amnesty International Canada, 416-363-9933 ext 332, 416-904-7158 (cell), bberton-hunter@amnesty.ca

Colleen French, Communication Coordinator, Canadian Council for Refugees, 514-277-7223, ext. 1, cfrench@ccrweb.ca