Ten family members delayed in Lebanon. Immigration has no timeline to bring them here.
The community of Campbell River raised over $80,000 to help privately sponsored Syrian refugees when they arrive in Campbell River but that money is now being spent even though the refugees have not arrived.
“My family is stuck there and I can’t do anything. It’s just stressful, just high level of stress” said Merell Awad, a Syrian now living in Campbell River for several years.
Awad has ten family members waiting in Beirut, Lebanon after escaping war-torn Syria. Five have received full approvals from Canadian immigration officials, but the remaining five are still being processed.
However Canadian immigration officials say the 25,000 refugee target has now been reached so the surplus immigration staff have been pulled from Lebanon meaning the timeline for precessing refugees has returned to previous waits of up to a year.
Meanwhile in Campbell River final preparations are being made at two townhouses that are supposed to be new homes for the Syrian refugees. Renting a third has been put on hold. The homes were rented because previous refugees had arrived in Canada as soon as three days after being approved.
“We’ve rented the houses and we’re furnishing them and we’re suddenly boom. Nothing” Awad told CHEK News.
“We did hear that immigration Canada had their 25000 refugees and they’re cutting back on staff now and we were approved well in advance of that 25000 number so why are we waiting?” added Erin Young of the Campbell River Syrian Refugee Support Committee.
The committee is now paying $1400 a month each for two townhouses and they’ll soon have to start sending money to the waiting refugees in Lebanon because they are just about out of their own money.
This means some of the $80,000 that was raised by the community for the refugees is now being spent before they even arrive.
“Instead of them paying money in Lebanon they can pay for the tickets and come. They don’t have, the government doesn’t have to pay for their ticket’s. Let them come. Just save us money, save them money. Save the community money that we raised” said Awad.
Immigration officials tell CHEK News the accelerated pace of recent months to process refugees could not be sustained but that applicants that were in process but not finalized as part of the initial 25,000 commitment will continue to be processed.
Merell says she’s been told her family will be here sometime in 2016, but that could mean many more rent payments for two empty townhouses.
Here is the full statement from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada:
“We know refugees and sponsors are disappointed that expedited processing is not continuing, but the accelerated pace of recent months could not be sustained indefinitely. Applications that were in process but not finalized as part of the initial 25,000 commitment will continue to be processed.
It is important to remember that the interview is not the last stage in the application process. Medical and security screening also need to be completed before an application can be approved. Once approved and a visa is issued, refugees, including privately sponsored refugees, are able to travel. Fully approved cases are not being held back. Landings continue as cases are finalized and refugees are ready to travel.
The government’s commitment to resettling Syrian refugees to Canada will continue in 2016 as both government-supported and privately sponsored Syrian refugees continue to arrive on commercial flights in the months ahead.”