This morning we were all shocked by the images of the 4-year old boy, Aylan Kurdi, on Turkey's shores. This was even more distressing when we learned that Aylan's aunt had wanted to sponsor him and his family to Canada.
We wanted to talk about why the Kurdi family was unable to come to Canada. These reasons are indicative of why so few refugees have been able to be sponsored from Syria.
In order to sponsor a refugee, you can form a group of five people in Canada (like Aylan's aunt would have) and show that you are able and willing to provide settlement assistance and support. These are known as the "Group of Five" sponsorships. However, in October 2012, the Conservative government, under Min. Jason Kenney, instituted a policy that essentially took away any chance of these Groups of Five to sponsor people like Aylan and his family. This was a policy that required all Group of Five sponsored refugees to obtain refugee designations by the UNHCR or a foreign country.
In crisis situations like the mass migration of Syrian refugees to Europe right now, the UNHCR is overwhelmed by the sheer number of people who need to register with them. They are usually unable to even start processing refugee designations until after the crisis is over. In order for Aylan and his family to be eligible to be sponsored, they would essentially have to wait several years outside of Syria until the crisis there is over and then wait in line for the UNHCR to process their refugee designations.
Even if the Kurdi family had been able to wait for the crisis to be over and obtain their UNHCR refugee designations, they would have had to wait for their aunt's Group of Five application to be approved, and then wait to have a hearing at the visa post. Currently the wait time to have a hearing at the Ankara visa post is 45 months.
Aylan and his family never had a chance to come to Canada. Their lives were in danger and they couldn't wait for the years that it would have taken to be able to be sponsored. The dangerous rowboat over the Aegean Sea was their only hope.
We call on Min. Chris Alexander to make immediate changes to their policies that create the impossible hurdles for Syrian refugees to be sponsored by Groups of Five to Canada.