Tuesday, October 27, 2015

CISSA-ACSEI Press Release on Prime Minister Designate Trudeau's response to the Syrian refugee crisis


Prime Minister Designate Justin Trudeau's response to the Syrian refugee crisis is to be applauded but two months is insufficient to adequately support and settle 25,000 additional Syrian government assisted refugees says a national umbrella association of immigrant and refugee serving organizations.

October 27, 2015 VANCOUVER, BC  (CISSA-ACSEI)

"Prime Minister Designate Justin Trudeau's response to the Syrian refugee crisis by resettling 25,000 additional government assisted refugees to Canada is to be applauded but more time is needed to adequately settle and support these additional refugees," says Chris Friesen, Chair, The Canadian Immigrant Settlement Sector Alliance- Alliance canadienne du secteur de l'établissement des immigrants (CISSA-ACSEI). "Let us keep to the UNHCR appeal and time frame for additional resettlement spaces spread over 2015 and 2016."

CISSA-ACSEI member agencies supports the need for additional 25,000 government assisted refugees in response to the Syrian refugee crisis in addition to private or community sponsorship initiatives but we need more time to put in place necessary program infrastructure, enhancements of system capacity and addressing current challenges in order to adequately support this proposed large refugee relocation movement to Canada. We urge the Prime Minister Designate Justin Trudeau to consider:

extending the time frame of resettling 25,000 Syrian government assisted refugees to the end of Dec 2016. This is in line with the last special appeal for resettlement spaces made by the UNHCR High Commissioner Guterres who in February 2014 asked resettlement states including Canada for an additional 100,000 resettlement spaces over a two year period - 2015 and 2016;

expanding the governments' definition for government assisted refugee families to include extended family members including grandparents, uncle, aunts, nephews and nieces and expedite all outstanding extended family reunification cases by Dec 31, 2015;

allowing Syrians in Canada to reunite with internally displaced family members still in Syria. This would mean offering permanent resettlement directly from Syria to Canada or the issuance, on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, visitor visas for respite visits to Canada. This would help prevent Syrians with close ties to Canada to avoid making the perilous trip to neighbouring countries or to Europe as the civil war continues;

expediting the reunification of Syrian children from refugees who sought asylum in Canada and were approved by the Immigration and Refugee Board; eliminating the issuance of interest bearing transportation loans to government assisted refugees. Refugees having to pay their own one way travel to Canada is not in line with humanitarian immigration objectives;

investing additional resources and increasing the capacity to address current service gaps and service demands is needed for all refugees including Syrians such as, for example, settlement related short term trauma counselling support which does not currently exist although it is expected that two thirds (2/3rds) of Syrians will require some form of mental health intervention upon their arrival in Canada. In addition, we currently have existing 6-10+ month wait-lists for adult English language classes in cities where the majority of Syrian refugees would likely be destined in Canada; and,

implementing a national housing allowance top up to the existing resettlement income support assistance. Like other working poor Canadians and local residents on provincial income support, it is becoming increasingly difficulty to secure low cost rental housing on current shelter rates.

These considerations would not only address the UNHCR High Commissioner Antonio Guterres special resettlement appeal by Canada accepting twenty-five (25%) of the 100,000 resettlement spaces requested but also support expedited extended family reunification cases as a first priority. Having a longer time frame -- to the end of Dec 2016 would facilitate a more effective settlement and integration process into Canadian society while ensuring we have the necessary supports in place to properly address this widely supported bold measure.

For further information:
Contact: Chris Friesen, Chair, CISSA-ACSEI
Phone: 778 995 3009

Quick Facts about CISSA-ACSEI

The Canadian Immigrant Settlement Sector Alliance- Alliance canadienne du secteur de l'√©tablissement des immigrants  (CISSA-ACSEI) is a pan-Canadian Association formed to represent the immigrant settlement sector in Canada and to bring the sector¡¯s expertise to bear on public policies and programs for enhancing the settlement and integration of immigrants and refugees.


The current government assisted refugee annual target was set by the former government at between 5,800 and 6,500 individuals. Canada is currently on track to resettle over 6,900 government assisted refugees in 2015 prior to PM designate Justin Trudeau 25,000 Syrian refugee response;

Thirty five to forty percent (35-40%) of current government assisted refugee target are brought to Canada between September and December each year ¨C an already busy period for existing service providers that work with government assisted refugees;

There are thirty six (36) refugee reception centres across Canada that provide the initial transitional housing and first language resettlement services to all government assisted refugees;

Each government assisted refugee is provided with one year resettlement assistance (income support) that mirrors the provincial welfare rates where they are destined. The shelter allowance rate is insufficient to locate permanent rental housing;

Canada remains the only country in the world that provides government assisted refugees and privately sponsored refugees with an interest bearing transportation loan that is used to off-set the cost of transporting refugees from often refugee camps to their final destination in Canada. The cost of the refugees¡¯ overseas medical examination is also incorporated into these loans. These loans can be up to $10,000 or higher depending if there are adult children in the family. Ninety-one percent (91%) of all refugees repay the loans at considerable personal costs including often using their child tax credit cheque to do so thus reducing food and other necessitates. CISSA-ACSEI believes that the transportation loan program should be eliminated as it is does not align with Canada's humanitarian immigration objectives;

Federal governments and traditional resettlement states like Australia have for several years provided targeted funding for first language trauma support interventions as a key component to their humanitarian immigration program although like Canada health care is a provincial-state responsibility.

Under the previous government faith communities and other community sponsorship initiatives were increasingly being asked to undertake refugee resettlement on behalf of the Government of Canada instead of the government assisted refugee program. Private and/or community sponsorship initiatives although vitally important and unique in the world have always be seen as additionality to the government assisted refugee program;

In 2014 refugees accounted for 9% of overall immigration to Canada in comparison to 1980 when refugees accounted for 28% of all immigration.