A Half Welcome

By Citizens for Public Justice

Delays, Limits, and Inequities in Canadian Refugee Sponsorship

April 2017
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This report examines the main policy challenges faced today by refugees and Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAHs). Drawing on the responses SAH representatives provided through a survey and interviews, it highlights four main areas of concern: long wait times, long wait times for non-Syrian applications, allocations limits, and travel loans.

1. Long Wait Times

Over 97% of the SAHs who responded to our study were concerned with the long wait period from when an application is filed and when it is assessed to the eventual arrival of the sponsored refugees. One SAH mentioned that some groups have been waiting for about six years to receive the families they are sponsoring.

Recommendation: The government must ensure that SAH, Groups of 5, and Community Sponsor applications are processed in a timely manner. Additional financial and personnel resources should be allocated to processing centres to speed up processing times. 

2. Long Wait Times for Non-Syrian Applications

Many also call for attention to the long wait currently impacting many non-Syrian applications, considering the government’s plan to resettle many Syrian refugees in 2015 and 2016. SAHs consider this to be inequity in private sponsorship, and urge the government to ensure more balance in this regard.

Recommendation: The processing of backlogged applications from global visa posts should be the government’s priority for the next three years.

3. Allocation Limits

There is an incredible surge in private sponsorship interest, but there are not enough spots to sponsor refugees. SAHs raised concerns about the allocation limits placed on the resettlement of privately sponsored refugees in 2017, noting that this impedes refugees’ opportunities for safety.

Recommendation: The government must provide SAHs with a three-year levels plan that provides estimates on the number of refugees from all sponsorship categories to be resettled within this period. 

4. Travel Loans

The loan repayment program is still inequitably implemented. The government offers refugees a loan to cover transportation costs to Canada, medical exams, fees for travel documents, and other service fees. They must begin to repay the loans within 30 days of their arrival in Canada. Currently, only Government Assisted Syrian Refugees do not have to repay travel loans.

Recommendation: The government must totally waive the loan repayment requirement for all refugees, to ensure that the program treats all refugees fairly.​

Top Concerns for SAHs

These pie charts represent SAHs’ opinions on the policy concerns raised in the research study.

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