Subject: GAR Bulletin--Special Edition: Syrian Refugee Report #1

In an effort to ensure information about Canada's response to the Syrian refugee crisis is provided in a timely manner, ISSofBC will be distributing periodic special-edition GAR Bulletins on the Syrian Refugee Crisis. The intention of these reports is to ensure groups providing support to refugees in British Columbia receive up-to-date information to facilitate planning and coordination.

Information for this bulletin was collated from:
  • a CISSA-ACSEI press release (October 27, 2015);
  • a conference call with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) on current response and potential future directions; and,
  • the BC Syrian Refugee Readiness Fund.
CISSA-ACSEI Press Release - excerpted

CISSA-ACSEI applauds the new Government’s commitment of resettling 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2015 but does not believe this is doable within two months. They are proposing the timeline be extended to the end of 2016 (14 months), which is in line with UNHCR request and would ensure more positive settlement outcomes for resettled refugees. See full media release here: CISSA-ACSEI Response to Plan to Settle 25,000 Syrian Refugees by Year-end

CIC Conference Call

Updates on Current Activities – by Bruce Scoffield, Senior CIC bureaucrat overseeing aspects of overseas processing

Working to fulfill current government mandate of resettling 11,300 Syrians by the end of Sept. 2016:

  • The newly established operations centre in Beirut will process 7,000 Syrians by the end of 2015. This figure represents all Syrians in the inventory when the announcement was made. CIC Staff in Beirut are currently interviewing approximately 150 families / 700 people per week.
In Canada:
  • CIC has reduced barriers to G5 (Group of Five) sponsorship of Syrians through streamlined process and reduced paperwork. Approximately 200 new sponsorship applications are being received each week, with a commitment to process sponsorship applications within 10 days. The office in Winnipeg is being supported by staff in Vancouver.
  • Maximizing the number of Syrians admitted to Canada as GARs by the end of 2015 will require the ability of International Organization of Migration (IOM) to book flights on weekends and after December 16th (the usual cut-off for GAR arrivals). Looking at an increase from 1,200 expected GAR arrivals to 2000 by the end of December.
  • CIC RAP-receiving agencies have agreed in principle to receive GARs post-December 16th (the usual cut off for GAR arrivals), as well as on weekends;
  • CIC has committed to providing more detailed information to existing Refugee Reception Centres (eg., updated projections of arrivals, destinations).
CIC has identified internal capacity requirements:
  • Increased monies for settlement funding environment;
  • CIC support for frontline services within the regions;
  • CIC has staff to provide this support.
Update on Possible Future Directions – by Deborah Tunis, CIC Syrian Refugee Coordinator

Ongoing discussions of options to meet campaign promise of 25,000 Syrians by the end of 2015:
  • Involvement of Red Cross, IOM, UNHCR in discussions on how to increase resettlement;
  • General agreement that a longer timeframe will result in better settlement outcomes;
  • There is a need for more detail about the anticipated breakdown of arrivals – Government Assisted Refugee (GAR), Privately Sponsored Refugees (PSR), Sponsorship Agreement Holders/Group of Five(SAH/G5), Blended Visa Office-Referred Program (BVOR)— in order to fully assess community capacity.
  • Liberal government has committed to changing the approach to Interim Federal Health Program (IFH) but there is no clarity to date on what this will look like.
Premier's Refugee Readiness Fund
  • The Government of British Columbia has created a $1-million readiness fund for Syrian refugees settling in BC. The call for proposals is anticipated to be released in early November.
What does this mean for British Columbia?
  • ISSofBC will likely receive higher numbers of resettled refugees, including potentially, 200 additional Syrian GARs by end of 2015, as well as 300 more by end of March 2016;
  • Increased demand for housing (including large families), medical services, services and/or interpretation in Arabic and Kurdish, school enrollment, volunteer mentors. Early indications suggest approximately 2/3 of Syrian refugees may require trauma-focused supports.
  • ISSofBC has contingency plans in place to accommodate the projected arrivals.
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