Thousands of people right across Canada have stepped up to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis.
The following are some action suggestions particularly suited for those inspired to privately sponsor refugees. (For basic information about private sponsorship, consult this document. For sponsorships in Quebec, please read this page.)
Consider refugees from other regions
As huge as the Syrian refugee crisis is, Syrians are not the only refugees in need of protection and a permanent home. According to the UNHCR, a third of the more than a million refugees in need of resettlement are in Africa. There are generations of Somalis in Kenya who have never known life beyond a refugee camp. There are hundreds of thousands of Eritreans, Congolese and Sudanese desperately searching for a safe haven.
Whether you are planning to sponsor, donate, or volunteer, consider responding to refugees from other regions as well as Syrians.
Be careful not to discriminate
People of all profiles are forced to flee persecution, and we should respond according to need, not on the basis of age, gender, religion, etc. Currently, there are particular concerns that single men are sometimes being excluded from consideration. Yet some single men may be among the most vulnerable: torture and forced recruitment into armed groups are widespread in Syria and those targeted are often young men.
Consider how to practise non-discrimination. If your group is keen to sponsor a family, could you sponsor a single person in addition?
Make connections with others in your community
Have you connected with Syrian Canadians in your community? If you are looking for someone to sponsor, Syrian Canadians may have some suggestions. Or if you are open to other nationalities, connect with others in your community who will be happy to identify people in need of sponsorship.
Having such connections will also help inform and prepare you for the arrival of the people you have sponsored.
Consider also reaching out to faith communities. For non-Muslims sponsoring Muslim refugees, it is helpful to educate yourselves about the faith and about resources available in your community (although we shouldn’t make assumptions about whether or how people will practise their religion). There are also many interesting examples of different faith communities supporting each other in their sponsorship initiatives.
Learn about refugees and Canada’s responses to refugees
Take some time to learn more about refugees. One place to start is the website of the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) and in particular this page: ccrweb.ca/en/refugee-facts
Read the CCR’s statement: Rebuilding a warm Canadian response to refugees from around the world
Be inspired by CCR’s Seven Keys to Protecting and Welcoming Refugees and Newcomers: A vision for Canada
Advocate for reform of the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program
The response to the Syrian refugee crisis gives wonderful new momentum to Canada’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program. However, the Program is facing dramatic challenges, and it will be difficult to sustain people’s involvement unless barriers and delays are overcome.
Learn about these challenges and join the CCR in advocating for changes to the program: http://ccrweb.ca/en/private-sponsorship-refugees
For more information: ccrweb.ca/en/private-sponsorship-refugees
Advocate for refugee family reunification
Canada routinely takes years to reunite children overseas with their refugee parents in Canada. Join the CCR in advocating for Express Entry Family Reunification: ccrweb.ca/en/family-reunification-action
Make use of available resources to prepare yourself for private sponsorship
Model code of ethics for private sponsors, ccrweb.ca/en/code-ethics-groups-involved-private-sponsorship-refugees
Refugee Sponsorship Training Program (RSTP) has many resources www.rstp.ca/en/ (some aspects do not apply to sponsorships to Quebec).
For more information on details of sponsorship to Quebec, see http://www.faitsetcauses.com/2015/12/11/le-parrainage-prive-des-refugies-que-savez-vous/ (in French)