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Private sponsorship is getting refugees jobs, but the system needs support: Vicky Mochama

Fifty-three per cent of privately-sponsored refugees have found full-time work, compared to 10 per cent of their government-sponsored counterparts.

Ahmed Hussen told a Commons committee Monday that privately-sponsored refugees are faring better in the job market than government-sponsored counterparts.

The Canadian Press

Ahmed Hussen told a Commons committee Monday that privately-sponsored refugees are faring better in the job market than government-sponsored counterparts.

The decades-old private sponsorship program is unique in both form and tradition.

But without sufficient money and resources, the agency that manages it is struggling with a backlog of potential sponsors, and leaving Canada in danger of breaking its global promise.

As the federal budget comes down in Ottawa, this should be a top priority.

The global migrant crisis is, with or without our help, finding a way into Canada.

While the right and humane thing is for Canada to match rhetoric with policy, there is one more reason to spend the money to clear the backlog: private sponsorship works.

Speaking in front of the Commons immigration committee Monday, Minister Ahmed Hussen said 53 per cent of privately-sponsored refugees had found full-time employment. For government-sponsored refugees that number is 10 per cent.

Supported by the community around them, refugees are finding jobs faster than those assisted mostly by bureaucrats and agencies. The private sponsorship system allows families and community groups to pool their will, compassion and resources to help refugee families.

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There are approximately 6,000 such sponsors awaiting approval by the federal government to be matched with a refugee family.

It thus came as a surprise to many families, churches, businesses and community groups to find that in mid-December, the department of citizenship and immigration quietly put a cap of 1,000 on the number of new applicants looking to sponsor Syrian and Iraqi refugees in 2017. Some groups had been prepared to sponsor multiple families.

The change to the private sponsorship system for Syrian and Iraqi refugees was meant to ease the backlog in processing applications. Months later, the backlog persists.

At the same time that the Immigration and Refugee Board is battling a stack of applications, the government has increased the overall number of privately-sponsored refugees that it plans to allow this year from elsewhere in the world. This year, Canada is planning for a high of 19,000 privately sponsored refugees.

The agency anticipates the situation will deteriorate. It foresees as many as 30,000 claims languishing. Wait times, which refugees and their advocates say are already lengthy, will double.

Speaking to The Canadian Press, the chairman of IRB was frank that the board was doing its best but it needed more help, saying, “efficiency has increased significantly, but there is no way we can deal with 30,000 cases when we’re funded for about 17, 000.”

Supported and embraced, refugee families are integrating. Canadian communities have shown that they are willing to do their part in the global migrant crisis.

The private sponsorship system is a workable extension of the generosity that we proclaim.

It’s time for Ottawa to put the money in and figure it out.

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