Refugee sponsorship on decline despite financial support from feds
Refugee 613 trying to promote government's blended visa program
It's been more than two years since the crisis in Syria hit home for Canadians with a picture of a lifeless child named Aylan Kurdi on a beach. That photo spurred Ottawans into action, and refugee sponsorships jumped in the fall of 2015 and into 2016.
Today that number has dropped significantly and organizations like Refugee 613 are trying to remind Ottawa that, while the Syria crisis is no longer top of mind, there's still a need for refugee sponsorships of Syrians and people in need from other parts of the world.
We want to make sure sponsorship becomes embedded as a regular part of community life- Louisa Taylor, Refugee 613
Louisa Taylor, co-founder and president of Refugee 613, said the outpouring of support for refugees two years ago was so massive that the only place to go was down.
She said she isn't concerned about the drop in support, although she is a little disappointed.
"But I also know that we did an incredible job … of doing far more than we had done for a long time," Taylor told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning. "We want to make sure sponsorship becomes embedded as a regular part of community life."
Refugee 613 is an organization that provides refugees with supports to make the transition to life in Canada successful.
To get people interested in refugee sponsorship again, Taylor said her organization is focusing on raising awareness about the federal government's Blended Visa Office-Referred program, which matches refugees identified for resettlement by the United Nations Refugee Agency with private sponsors in Canada.
'We just need people to step up and make it happen'
"We're telling people, first of all, that sponsorship is alive and well, and that there are refugees all over the world, 1.2 million of them, who UNHCR says are in urgent need of resettlement," Taylor said.
The drop in sponsorships is not because there's a lack of empathy or desire to help vulnerable people, Taylor said. Other refugee programs can take years and years, which becomes a deterrent for sponsors. The BVOR program is a much better option, she suggested.
The federal government plans to bring in 1,500 refugees under the BVOR program, Taylor said, but more than 200 of these spaces won't get filled.
"That's 200 fewer people that Canada agreed to bring, that we have the money to bring and we just need people to step up and make it happen."