Under the previous federal administration, however, the number of privately sponsored refugees actually coming into the country each year was closer to 5,000. With 34,000 claimants currently in process, it would take six years for them all to arrive if no new applications were accepted.
On the door of Hospitality House’s cramped office at the Catholic Centre for Social Justice, there is a letter in red font explaining why they cannot currently accept new refugee applications. With such a backlog in the system and so much work to be done to process the ones currently on file, it’s futile to add more claims.
This problem was well underway in Canada before the wave of Syrian refugees began to flood Europe and the world started to ask how it can aid so many in finding safe places to call home. What is the solution? For Tom’s colleague, Karin Gordon, the answer is simple: the federal government needs to replace the annual cap. Under this model, private sponsors would continue to pay the costs of supporting newcomers for their first year in the country, but if the money could be found, the people would be allowed to come.
In the next month, some families will be blessed by being ushered through the system at record speed, thanks to the new federal administration’s promise to bring an additional 25,000 refugees to Canada by spring. This number is in addition to any others already coming through, causing refugee resettlement organizations across the country to call all hands on deck, even suspending staff Christmas vacation time. Manitoba’s share is approximately 6% of this number, or 1,500 newcomers.
Many refugees are turned away by immigration officials because they cannot prove their identity or their status as refugees. Proving who they are is a near-im- possible feat for a person who has been driven from his or her home. Hussein Sheik, for example, featured in the Rupert’s Land News’ November magazine, came from Somalia, which has not had a stable government to issue identification for decades. In a small act of mercy, our new government has agreed to allow Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the country without full docu- mentation, although they still undergo screening.