The Current

Canadians desperate to sponsor refugees as governments dither

Chaos continues at a train station in Hungary where police and refugees have clashed for days. Tens of thousands are running from war and to find safety. As the refugee crisis worsens, and governments are slow to react, we hear from people trying to lighten the burden in Europe and here at home.
Migrants storm into a train at the Keleti train station in Budapest, Hungary, Sept. 3 as Hungarian police withdrew from the gates after two days of blocking their entry. (REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo)

"We need to break through the lack of a political will to help these people." - Canadian Raghu Venugopal trying to sponsor Syrian refugees (Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images)

Yesterday on The Current, we were checking in on Europe's growing refugee crisis... hearing eye witness accounts of these migrants' perilous journeys -- away from war torn Syria, and into the safety of Europe. 

These are people who are leaving their homelands. It's a choice that is forced by circumstances. They are desperate people.- Chris Buckler, BBC Correspondent in Athens

Hundreds allowed to board train but not told of destination 1:25

Today, we're continuing our coverage of this story -- checking in with the organizations, and individuals, who are stepping into this crisis situation to help.... sometimes as their own governments dither.

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      Now there are reports that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Chris Alexander, who is also a Conservative candidate, is temporarily suspending his re-election bid. Chris Alexander has told us this morning that the statement speaks for itself and that he's heading to Ottawa to look into the boy who drowned trying to come to Canada.

      On the election trail this has become a big issue. 

      The Conservatives have pledged to accept a total of 20,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq if re-elected-that would happen through both government sponsorship and private groups 

      Speaking on CBC's Power and Politics yesterday, the Conservatives' Chris Alexander said that, to date, 2500 Syrian refugees have come to Canada from overseas, through government-assistance and private sponsorship. 

      Both the NDP and Liberal leaders say Canada should be accepting more refugees. Justin Trudeau promised yesterday that under a Liberal government, Canada would accept 25,000 Syrian refugees, as an initial target. And a press conference NDP leader Tom Mulcair said Canada should accept 10,000 refugees right away. 

      In many countries grass roots organizations are starting to play a role in places like Germany and Iceland. Some Canadians are also banding together to see what they can do to take in Syrian refugees. 

      Dr. Raghu Venugopal is an Emergency Room physician who has volunteered with Medicins Sans Frontier most recently serving in Congo. He is also a member of The Ripple Refugee Project - a group of 15 people trying to sponsor Syrian refugees. He joined us in our Toronto studio.  

      We requested an interview with the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Chris Alexander, or an official from his department but we have not received a response to our request. 

      For a sense of what governments are doing, both in the EU and Canada, we reached Audrey Macklin. She is the University of Toronto Chair in Human Rights Law. She says the refugee policy in Canada and the EU are very similar and is based on an effort to avoid accepting refugees. 

      This segment was produced by The Current's Howard Goldenthal, Marc Apollonio and Sujata Berry.