In Canada, first-ever website matches Syrian refugees to sponsors

  • Thomson Reuters Foundation, New York
  • Updated: Jan 28, 2016 08:23 IST
Recently-arrived Syrian refugees meet sponsors and relatives at the Armenian Community Centre in Toronto. (The Canadian Press via AP File Photo)

Syrian refugees can be matched with Canadians keen to help them rebuild their lives under a new initiative that aims to aid some of the millions of Syrians uprooted from their war-torn homeland.

Under a newly launched government website, Canadians can register relatives who are Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, bringing them to the attention of Canadians looking to help them resettle in North America.

The first-of-its-kind website is part of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s high-profile plan to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees.

Syrian Family Links fixes a glitch in the resettlement process when potential sponsors cannot find refugees to help, said Carolyn Davis, executive director of the non-profit Catholic Crosscultural Services, a partner in the project.

Canada allows so-called private sponsorship under which ordinary citizens can pay for refugee care, lodging and other assistance for up to a year.

“It’s kind of two worlds that are meeting each other that don’t have a lot of ways to connect,” she said.

Syria’s five-year-old civil war has forced nearly 12 million from their homes and created more than 4 million refugees.

“Canadians from coast to coast to coast have come together to help vulnerable Syrian refugees in a truly national effort,” said John McCallum, minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship in a statement.

The government estimates private sponsorship costs nearly 13,000 Canadian dollars ($9,200 US) for a single refugee and 30,000 Canadian dollars ($21,000 US) for a family of five.

More than a third of nearly 14,000 Syrian refugees in Canada have been privately sponsored, according to the government.

The initiative will help the many people in Canada who have been looking for a way to help sponsor refugees, said Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees in Montreal.

“It’s kind of filling a gap that has been noted for some time,” she said.

More than 40,000 Canadians are of Syrian ethnic origin, government data shows.

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