Red tape causing difficulties for Iraqi refugees
Three Iraqi families are being sponsored to come and live on P.E.I.
Three Island parishes trying to bring Iraqi refugee families to P.E.I. are facing uncertainty as political red tape continues to delay the process.
Nearly a decade ago, facing religious persecution in Iraq, the three catholic families and thousands of others fled to refugee camps in Syria — a country now engulfed in its own civil war.
Earlier this year Canada shut down its embassy and visa offices in Syria and transferred its files to offices in Lebanon and Jordan, making attempts to finalize refugee applications a nightmare.
Charles Kelleher, who sits on the refugee committee at St. Pius Catholic Church, said it's a frustrating situation.
"Given the state of unrest over there, it's very difficult to know what's happening in the missions. As you know, there's literally thousands of refugees flooding out of Syria into other countries like Jordan," he said.
Dan Doran, who works with a refugee sponsorship committee with the Diocese of Charlottetown, said he's hoping something can be done to speed up the process.
"Conditions aren't very good," said Doran, "And we're just hoping their cases can be expediated."
But staying optimistic is proving a challenge for these refugee committee members. They haven't been able to contact two of the three families and they said, there is a huge backlog of refugee applications.
Doran said getting any information from immigration officials here in Canada has been near impossible.
"Extremely frustrating," said Doran. "This is one of the downsides to sponsorship. You get your hopes up, you get your volunteers committed."
"It's a bit frustrating, and we certainly feel for the families," said Kelleher. "We'd like to be able to introduce ourselves to them and communicate with them."
The federal government won't comment on specific cases, but in an email to CBC, Citizenship and Immigration Canada said its staff are facing what they call "technical and security limitations," but are trying to process applications as fast as they can.
The Parishes are staying optimistic.
It costs about $20,000 per family for the sponsorships. Church members have already raised thousands of dollars to sponsor the families and they hope those families will move to the Island within a year.
"We'll continue to follow the three P's," said Kelleher, "Prayers, patience, and perseverance."