Newspaper article The Canadian Press

As Refugee Population Grows, Feds Seek New Ways to Meet Their Needs

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

As Refugee Population Grows, Feds Seek New Ways to Meet Their Needs

Article excerpt

Feds seek new ways to meet refugee needs

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OTTAWA - Every time Ottawa's refugee settlement community gets together, Syrians show up seeking help to get family members out of their home country or one of the countries nearby that are now home to over four million Syrian refugees, says a resettlement worker.

But many can't afford private sponsorship, so a new program designed to connect them directly with people who can is welcome, said Donald Smith, who runs the refugee working group for the Anglican diocese of Ottawa.

"It's huge," he said of the demand. "We get people walking in off the street, emails and phone calls every day of people saying, please help me sponsor my family."

Since the program opened last week, 157 Syrian families have signed up, though only five sponsorship groups have joined. That's an imbalance the government hopes to change and not just to capitalize on the outpouring of support from Canadians.

Research has shown that refugees with private sponsors generally get jobs and come off social assistance faster than those who come through the government-assisted program.

New data obtained by The Canadian Press gives some insight as to why: a preliminary review of government-assisted Syrian refugees who've landed in Canada since November show they have lower education levels and job skills and the vast majority speak neither English nor French when compared with those with private sponsors.

But that's the whole point of the exercise, said Immigration Minister John McCallum.

"When we say we want to receive the most vulnerable, we don't choose people with PhDs," he said. "We choose the most vulnerable people who are given to us out of the UN lists, so naturally it will be little more difficult for them when they arrive here to integrate."

The government-assisted refugee program sees the federal government cover the entire cost of a refugee's first year in the country, with the settlement services they need handled by agencies with federal contracts. …

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