Aid group worries non-Syrian refugees may be made to wait longer

Thousands of Syrian refugees are expected in Manitoba in the coming months, but Hospitality House Refugee Ministry is worried about what will happen to refugees from other countries who have waited years to come.

Hospitality House Refugee Ministry says thousands of refugees have waited years to come to Manitoba

Refugee children and youth in Winnipeg. An aid organization worries what will happen to non-Syrian refugees who have been waiting years to come to Manitoba. (Chris Glover/CBC)

Members of a group that helps sponsor and settle refugees worry about what will happen to the thousands of refugees already waiting to come to Manitoba when Syrian refugees start arriving.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau committed to bringing 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada before the end of the year.

Tom Denton, executive director of administration and sponsorship for Hospitality House Refugee Ministry, said he welcomes the Syrian refugees, but wonders what will happen to those already waiting to come to Canada.

"In fact, there's about 22,000 or 23,000 non-Syrian, non-Iraqi refugees that have been sponsored and have been waiting for years, like typically four to five years. Ourselves, we're landing about 50 a month here in Winnipeg, and most of them have been waiting for four or five, even eight years to get here," Denton said.

Over the past several years there have been restrictions on the number of refugees allowed into the country.

Denton has questions for the new federal government about its policies.

"We're in very interesting times, because the government has just changed and we don't know what will be the result of that as this new government takes hold and moves forward with its own policies," Denton said.

Later this month Denton will be with a national council heading to Ottawa to find out exactly what the future will hold for groups that sponsor refugees.

"There are many concerns and there are eight of us that are elected to represent the sponsors of Canada … and there's a long list of questions that we will be raising. One of them, for example, will be the limits that have been previously placed on our ability to sponsor, other than Syrians, and will that continue or will it not continue? We just don't know at this point," Denton said.

Given the speed with which the Trudeau government has pledged to act on bringing Syrian refugees to Canada, Denton is hopeful there will be changes in the future that will make it easier for refugees to make their way to Manitoba.

"It demonstrates that this movement of refugees can happen quickly. It doesn't have to happen with this slow process that's going on now. It needs to be treated as a rescuing program and not as just another slice of our immigration pie," Denton said.


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