British Columbia

Syrian refugees not arriving quickly enough say B.C. private sponsors

A group of private sponsors in B.C. is calling on the federal government to speed up the arrival of Syrian refugees.

One group says it's spending $1,000 per month to pay rent for an apartment that is sitting empty

A Syrian family sit outside a tent at a Syrian refugee camp in the eastern town of Kab Elias, Lebanon, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. Private sponsor groups say it is taking the Canadian government too long to process refugee applications. (Bilal Hussein/The Associated Press)

A group of private sponsors in B.C. is calling on the federal government to speed up the arrival of Syrian refugees.

The Canadian government has said it will bring in 10,000 privately sponsored refugees by the end of 2016 or early 2017. But that's too long to wait, say some private sponsors.

The False Creek South Neighbourhood Association says it wants the refugee family, which it filled paperwork out for last May, arrive in Canada in the next few weeks.

"Considering these applications were encouraged at a time where there was really high profile on this, we feel that these cases should be expedited," said Kathleen McKinnon, a member of the association.  

"That's a long wait. It's a long wait for us, but more importantly, it's a long wait for the [refugee] families."

Children in refugee families are outgrowing the clothes sponsors have bought them because the government is taking too long to process their applications, says Kathleen McKinnon. (CBC)

She says the organization is spending $1,000 per month on rent for a Vancouver apartment that is sitting empty, waiting for refugees.

"We have rented an apartment, which we thought we had to do because at the time, in the fall and late winter, people were scrambling for apartments because they were coming quite quickly — the refugees were coming sometimes within 48 hours."

Some critics say staff cuts to the government's refugee efforts caused a slowdown in processing refugees after the initial 25,000 goal was reached in February.

Immigration Minister John McCallum responded to questions from reporters at the Canadian Bar Association's Immigration Law Conference April 8, 2016. (CBC)

Immigration Minister John McCallum told reporters earlier this week that more staff are being sent to the Middle East for faster processing times.

"Because it takes a long time, we are sending people back to the region, but for each refugee there has to be an interview, there has to be a security check, there has to be health checks," McCallum told reporters Friday.

"These don't automatically happen super fast. Sometimes the refugees may not always be available, but we're doing it as quickly as we possibly can.

"I'm grateful to those families and wish we could do it faster but we can't."

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