Refugee slowdown means B.C. has time to fine-tune plans

November 24, 2015

By Tara Carman and Jeff Lee, Vancouver Sun |

British Columbia can now expect hundreds, rather than thousands, of Syrian refugees by the end of the year. And most of them will be privately sponsored, meaning there are already communities preparing to welcome them.

The federal Liberal government announced Tuesday that it will take in 10,000, rather than 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2015. The other 15,000 will arrive in January and February. The extra time is needed to ensure federal officials can conduct comprehensive medical and security screening before the refugees arrive and give organizations on the ground more time to prepare, the government said at a press conference in Ottawa.

Chris Friesen, settlement services director with the Immigrant Services Society of B.C., said that of the 10,000 arriving before the end of the year, about 8,000 will be privately sponsored and only 2,000 will be government sponsored.

The Immigrant Services Society, which only handles government-sponsored refugees, is expecting about 10 per cent of those 2,000, or 200, will come to this province by Dec. 31, Friesen said.

The federal government has not said how many privately sponsored refugees are coming to B.C. next month nor how they will be distributed. These refugees are selected by community groups who then raise the money to support them for the first year. Thse groups also take responsibility for tasks such as arranging English classes, medical appointments and school enrolment for children. The refugees settle wherever the group that sponsors them is based.

Government-sponsored refugees, by contrast, are selected on the basis of vulnerability and tend to represent the most urgent resettlement cases.

The fact that there will be fewer refugees than expected arriving in the next few weeks and that most will be privately sponsored, had organizations in Metro Vancouver responsible for settling refugees breathing a collective sigh of relief Tuesday.

Nader Abdullah, the president of the Syrian Canadian Council of Vancouver, said the slowdown will probably reassure Canadians that the settlement process is robust.

“As long as we satisfy the public concerns, and they are our concerns, too, because this is our community, our society, we don’t see any problem with this,” he said.

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