Obstacles to sponsorship of Afghan refugees

Given the current crisis in Afghanistan and Canada’s success in resettling refugees, why isn’t the federal government responding now as it did in 2015, when Alan Kurdi’s footage galvanized millions of Canadians?

During the recent civil war in Syria, the federal government adopted a number of strategies that it said gave it the flexibility to respond quickly to a growing crisis that threatened the lives of millions of people.

Among these strategies, the designation of Syrian refugees as refugees prima facie was without a doubt a very good initiative. In general, refugees abroad seeking asylum in Canada must have proof that they have been granted refugee status, a status recognized by international law. However, in contexts of urgent political crisis, citizens who wish to flee their country of origin often do not have the possibility of obtaining this status. […]

This designation is a crucial instrument that states like Canada can and should use in situations where political instability is rapidly endangering thousands of people in any given nation. We believe that Canada, given its role in the efforts that have been carried out over many years to prevent such a situation from occurring in Afghanistan, has a responsibility to grant this designation to Afghan citizens.

Regulations to be amended

As important and necessary as this federal action is, we know, as residents of Quebec and as citizens involved for more than five years in the private sponsorship of refugees, that it will be a weak instrument if the current provincial regulations for the refugee resettlement is not changed.

Even if the federal government responded to the crisis in Afghanistan with the necessary actions, the godmothers of Quebec who stand in solidarity with the Afghan people would face considerable obstacles. While the federal government places a limit on the number of refugees who can be resettled to the country in any given year (a limit that can be adjusted based on perceived need), there is no federal limit on the number of private sponsorships. that can be undertaken in any given year. […] On the other hand, in Quebec, there is a limit imposed on the number of private sponsorships. The private sponsorship application process was briefly reopened in spring 2021 to accept 750 applications. Currently, the program is closed until November 2021 – preventing us from submitting a sponsorship application.

The Legault government continues to suggest that the integration of immigrants and refugees remains its priority; however, if this is the case, why discourage private sponsorship groups who are ready to invest their time and resources now, on a voluntary basis, in order to support the linguistic, cultural, social and economic integration of refugees in the country? Quebec? Given the abundant literature that confirms the many benefits of private sponsorship, including the positive links between this type of sponsorship and the integration of refugees, why is this program limited rather than encouraged?

In addition, by allowing Quebec civil society to become involved in such a concrete way in the global efforts to fight against forced migration, the private sponsorship program is an excellent example of local civic engagement whose ramifications are transnational. […] To this end, with regard to the reception of refugees throughout the world, we can see that the efforts made by the countries of the Global South are far superior to those of the countries of the Global North (more than 80% of refugees are hosted by countries of the global South).

Even if collective sponsorship represents only a limited response to the scale of forced displacement on the planet, we ask to remove the obstacles that prevent us from showing our solidarity with refugees around the world. And because the Afghans are not the only ones facing a crisis right now, we are asking the Government of Quebec to open the program and not to limit itself to requests made for sponsorship of Afghan people. And the federal government is calling on the bureaucratic hurdles that prevent Afghans without refugee status from being sponsored to be lifted.

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