This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

The Inside Track

"With the Canadian government ... the response they're giving to humanitarian things [such as the situation with Syrian refugees] is unbelievable. It's amazing, but it's not fair."
"Our people are crossing the Sahara and the Mediterranean Sea in large numbers. Many of them passed away in the sea. Why are they taking a lot of risk? Because the international community is not taking an initiative to help them. Giving attention to only one group is not fair."
"All applicants, all sponsors are complaining about the backlog [in refugee intake]. The government knows there is a backlog. They need to spend money. They need to invest."
Zerit Teclehaimanot, 39, settlement worker, Community Action Resource Centre, Toronto

"The Government of Canada remains committed to upholding its humanitarian tradition to resettle refugees and offer protection to those in need."
"IRCC [Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada] continues to work as effectively as possible to resettle refugees given operational and security limitations."
Remi Lariviere, spokesman, Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada

"Until 2011, we didn't have any caps. In one year we backed 700 sponsorships. Next year we only did 200 because of the 'government' allocation given to us."
"When we talk about refugees, half of the world's refugee population in need of resettlement is in Africa. We should have a significant number of spots for sub-Saharan Africans."
Dr. Martin Mark, Director, Office for Refugees, Archdiocese of Toronto
The immense number of international refugees whose plight blemishes the relative wealth, peace and tranquility of countries whose governments administer the affairs of their citizens in a fair and equitable manner, aided by economic strength in trade of natural resources and manufacturing enterprises haunt the well-being of people living without the concerns experienced by the world's oppressed and needy living under conflict-prone, tyrannical regimes.

On the other hand, even a country as wealthy as Canada with its deep store of natural resources and commitment to quality of life in an equitable sharing to all its citizens, has its own share of failures and human tragedy when not all Canadians are able to find a sanctuary of their own within society. The misery of unemployment, of homelessness, of mental instability, of drug and alcohol addiction rendering people incapable of looking to their own fundamental needs represents a staggering burden on society.

An estimated 60 million people across the world are in a state of displacement as a result of conflict, economic stress and corruption, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Mr. Teclehaimanot, himself a refugee from Eritrea who arrived in Canada in 2012, planned to sponsor four Eritreans, but limits to the numbers that can be accepted have been affected by the government's pledge to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada.

He has succeeded in his sponsorship of only one old friend whose temporary permit in Israel had expired, still awaiting the completion of his Canadian application. While his other three friends languish, he gives witness to the swift processing of Syrian refugees to Canada and feels affronted that his friends in need are not given the same treatment. Who can find much to fault in his reasoning? But things are never as simple as they seem. The focus is on the plight of Syrian Sunnis whose government has spearheaded a deliberate, lethal campaign against them in a sectarian conflict.

To balance Canada's refugee intake a cap has been imposed on visa offices in Nairobi, Cairo, Pretoria, Dar es Salaam and Islamabad, limiting refugee numbers who arrive in Canada from those sources, which predated the Syrian intake. The reason that has occurred is one of circumstances; the capacity of the country to process applications, with a current backlog of 27,959 privately sponsored refugees and an economic downturn that resulted in financial cuts to the immigration department.

Processing can take up to 70 months for refugees coming from specific countries, and this time lag has deleteriously impacted those from other countries. "We have people here waiting year after year. We have at least 300 families in our books. We are not putting any more people on our waiting list", commented Azaria Wolday, manager of Northwood Neighbourhood Community Services, a private sponsorship program.

Dr. Mark of the Archdiocese of Toronto gives his organization's refugee spots at 200 through the visa office in Nairobi, covering Kenya and a few other African countries. As for Syrian refugees, he has unlimited places for them. It is his belief that the slowing down of refugee applications from Africa has been caused by the concentration on Syrian refugees. So, a refugee is not quite a refugee if their need though dire reflects their African roots as compared to the current fixation on Syrian refugees.

"Africans have had to wait for an extremely long time. And the Syrians, even before this program came in, they were processing them much more quickly. So there has been a lack of equity. All of the focus on the Syrians and special measures and much faster processing kind of accentuates the concerns over the long processing times for other groups. It increases the sense of injustice", noted Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees.

She would prefer that wait times for refugees from Africa be reduced, that more resources be devoted to the processing of applications and restrictive rules be eliminated that limit which refugees can be sponsored, through the removal of caps on privately sponsored refugees. But just as Zerit Teclehaimanot would like more financing of refugee-directed programs, there is a finite amount of tax money available for this vital obligation with Canada's economy lurching from iffy to dismal.

And the intake of both immigrants whose numbers reflect a quarter-million yearly, along with the refugee contingent places a heavy burden on universal social services, from welfare to education to community resources, and above all,  universal medical care. We must do what we can, but what we can do is of necessity hampered by what we can afford to do in funding, space, and dedicated time.

Canada has certain choices in its capacity to respond to the needs of refugees unlike the situation that Europe now finds itself in, the hapless forced recipient of floods of desperate people gushing out of the Middle East, Southeast Asia and North Africa, vacating their places of origin whose governments have betrayed the needs of their citizens.

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