What is a refugee?

Refugees are ordinary are people who have been forced to flee their countries because of extraordinary circumstances. They have faced war, persecution, and terrible violence. Because of this, they can’t go home. They are currently outside of their home country, and can’t safely stay in their current location.

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What is refugee sponsorship?

Countries around the world resettle about 100,000 refugees each year. Canada has historically accepted one in ten of these people, through government-assisted and privately sponsored refugee programs. Our country has unique programs that allow Canadians to welcome refugees by sponsoring them and helping them start new lives.

How do we sponsor a refugee?

To sponsor a refugee you must form a group. Your group makes a commitment to help the refugee and his or her immediate family resettle. You make a commitment to financially support them for one year after their arrival.

Right now, your sponsor group can be a group of five or more Canadians or permanent residents. Community groups can also sponsor. The federal government has recently made changes to allow these groups to sponsor Syrian families on their own. These groups can also partner with agencies that are pre-approved to sponsor refugees. These are called Sponsorship Agreement Holders, or SAHs.

If you raise funds and build a committed group, many SAHs could be willing to partner with you. Because of the magnitude of the current refugee crisis, the federal government is working on ways to streamline these processes. Check back with Refugee 613 regularly or sign up for our newsletter to receive updates.

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How do I find a refugee to sponsor?

Some refugees are selected and approved by the Canadian government. Some refugees are selected and approved by the Canadian government. These refugees are often eligible for - economic support, such as 6 months of social assistance or Ontario works level income, and basic home furnishings. They are also eligible for extended health insurance. Only SAHs receive a list of refugees eligible for this stream of sponsorship. They can arrive in Canada as permanent residents in just 2-3 months.

Your group can also identify an individual or family to sponsor by:

Application processing currently takes at least a year, although it’s hard to predict what processing times will be as regulations change.

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How difficult is the application process?

The paperwork can look daunting, but don’t be discouraged. There are lawyers working pro bono to help with your application, and organizations with experience who are willing to assist.The Refugee Sponsorship Support Program (SSP) by the uOttawa Refugee Hub brings together pro-bono lawyers, law students, and sponsorship experts to offer direct support to Canadians seeking to sponsor refugees. It aims to help more Canadians help more refugees, faster, by matching sponsoring groups with trained lawyers so that each group can have a designated 'legal guide' help them navigate the complex sponsorship process. Information for sponsoring groups seeking support and lawyers looking to help is available at refugeessp.ca.

When choosing a case for sponsorship, try to find someone with identity documents, and a true story of why they had to flee that can be documented in some way. It helps if they are registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. It’s even better if they have a UNHCR refugee certificate, although the government recently relaxed those rules for Syrians.

In addition to making a case for persecution, they should not already be in a safe country. The application will have to show that there is no durable solution for the refugee to remain where they are now.

How much money does our group need?

Since your group is responsible to support the refugee or refugee family, you should aim to provide funding at least to the level of welfare. This can be offset by in-kind donations, such as temporary housing. Plan for a little extra to cover start-up costs, like application fees, winter clothes, and staples for their new home. Some refugees are eligible for supplemental government funding. You will want a small contingency fund to address things like dental needs. This presentation provides some estimates for these costs.

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What does being “responsible for resettlement” mean?

The sponsoring group is responsible for helping the sponsored refugees settle into their new home and community. This starts with welcoming the individual or family at the airport and bringing them to their new home, as well as providing furnishings, clothing and household supplies upon arrival, either in cash or in kind. Sponsors help with obtaining SIN cards, health care, bank accounts and more. You’ll take them grocery shopping and explain how to use OC Transpo. You’ll offer links to doctors and dentists, help with enrolling the children in school and offer support with finding language training, employment supports and other settlement services.

The sponsoring group also may be called upon to provide emotional support to the family as they adjust to life in their new community. You won’t be alone in this resettlement process. Shortly after arrival you can reach out to link them to Ottawa’s excellent service organizations.

You’ll soon learn that refugees are strong, resilient people. Your role is to offer them the information and support required to take charge of their life in Canada. You may forge a lifelong friendship or you may drift apart. Either way, you will have experienced the reward of supporting a family in crisis to rebuild their lives within a welcoming community they can call home.

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