‘ What should we do?’
Victoria County group still hoping to welcome first Syrian family
A community group looking to bring a Syrian refugee family to Victoria County is seeking advice on how to proceed now that three temporary Canadian resettlement offices in the Middle East have now closed.
The Syria-to-Baddeck group held a meeting Tuesday to figure out where to go from here. They have been able to raise nearly $30,000 through fundraisers over the past five months.
Athol Grant, a Victoria County councillor and a volunteer with the community group, said no active fundraising will take place until it can figure out how long the paperwork will take to get a Syrian family to Baddeck.
They have been waiting to welcome a family through the Blended Visa Office-Referred program, which matches refugees identified for resettlement by the United Nations Refugee Agency with private sponsors in Canada.
“We’re looking for direction from the federal government and the province. What should we do? We have this money; we’re ready to take in a family.
What are our chances under (Blended Visa Office-Referred)? We’d kind of like somebody to tell us that,” Grant said.
Under the program the government matches the funding raised by the community group.
If government sponsorship will take too long, the Syria-to-Baddeck group is open to a private sponsorship of a family where it would be expected to pick up all of the costs associated with it.
He said there are caps on the number of privately sponsored refugees allowed into the country as well.
Since the federal government reached its Feb. 29 goal of resettling 25,000 refugees from the ongoing civil war in Syria, temporary offices overseas have now shut down.
The latest figures from Immigration and Citizenship Canada show 26,207 Syrian refugees have moved to Canada since December.
At a high-level meeting in Geneva on the Syrian refugee crisis, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister John McCallum said Wednesday that he supported the UN Refugee Agency’s efforts to secure participation from other member countries.
He also said Canada will continue to resettle government- sponsored and privately sponsored refugees through 2016.
“Our plan this year calls for us to resettle up to 44,800 refugees, the majority of them being Syrian,” the department said in a statement Wednesday.
Amanda McDougall, the manager of immigration partnerships at Cape Breton University, said refugee resettlement workers have been working “flat out” over the past six months to meet the government-imposed deadline of 25,000 refugees.
She said those workers must return to their jobs to help refugees in other parts of the world.
“It’s never going to stop (resettlement of refugees). It’s just getting back to a more manageable pace now,” McDougall said.
Unlike other organizations in the province looking to welcome a Syrian family, Grant said the Syria-to-Baddeck group hasn’t rented an apartment waiting for a family to arrive.
He said they did initially look for a rental property as recently as a few weeks ago but have since stopped until more is known about how long it’ll take to welcome the first Syrian family to Victoria County.