Since tragic images of Alan Kurdi, a Syrian toddler who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea, were published on Wednesday, Rebecca Walker’s phone has been ringing.
“I’ve received a number of calls from churches just this morning looking to sponsor refugees,” said Walker, World Renew’s Refugee Coordinator.
“I’ve been encouraging churches to sponsor refugees through the Blended Visa Office Referred (BVOR) program,” she says. “Our churches have sponsored a large number of refugees just this year through this program.”
In the BVOR program, churches can sponsor refugees who have already been interviewed by Canadian visa officers and are ready for resettlement. It is a cost shared program involving the government and churches. Both the government and the church each provide six months of income support for the refugees. The church is also responsible for startup costs and for the “hands on” resettlement support.
To date there have been very few Syrian BVOR refugees available to sponsor, but it is hoped that more Syrian refugees will be available in the next several months.
A post up on the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue’s Facebook page with the image of Alan Kurdi said simply: “Today, we lament. Today, we pray that this picture may become a tipping point to galvanize efforts to welcome refugees. Today, we take action.”
Prominent in the discussion have been the hurdles to sponsoring Syrian and other refugees through Canada’s refugee system.
“There are certainly obstacles to refugee resettlement and sponsorship that have been frustrating for many. However, the difficult and passionate work continues despite obstacles. Churches and sponsors have played a significant role in this justice work in the past and that work continues today,” says Mike Hogeterp of the Centre for Public Dialogue, directing churches to World Renew’s refugee resettlement work.
The challenges in Canada’s system are the focus of new resources from the Centre for Public Dialogue and World Renew that are intended to support voters as they interact with their candidates for Parliament around the issues. The new resources can be viewed at crcna.org/vote2015-refugees.
The new infographic up on the Centre for Public Dialogue’s website points out that though Canada ranked fifth in the world in refugee resettlement in 2004, it has fallen to 15th.
The Office of Social Justice plans to send an action alert in the coming days to help both Americans and Canadians interact with their elected representatives around this issue.