More efficiency needed for Iraqi refugee resettlement

  • April 20, 2010
Canada Iraqi immigrationCanada is either the number two or number three country after the United States in terms of taking on Iraqi refugees, depending on how we measure it.

From 2007 to 2009 the UNHCR in Syria submitted 3,280 applications from verified Iraqi refugees for resettlement in Canada. That’s second to the 27,406 who were submitted for resettlement in the United States.

But in terms of the number who actually got on a plane to Canada, the great white north slips to third place, behind a remarkably efficient German program. Just 1,473 Iraqi refugees left Syria for Canada over those three years. That’s 45 per cent of the bona fide refugees submitted to Canada over three years.

Canada is marginally more efficient than the Americans who had managed to process just 43 per cent of the 27,406 submissions it had received over the same period.

Both countries could learn something from the Germans about efficiency. Germany did not start accepting Iraqi refugees until 2009, when it managed to process 58 per cent of the 2,939 submissions it received from Syria that year. That made Germany number two in terms of departures from Syria, even though Canada had a two-year head start.

Canada’s target for 2010 is to accept 3,900 Iraqi refugees from the entire region, but even if Canada does accept 3,900 this year, that doesn’t mean 3,900 will find themselves on a plane with papers in hand as the wheels of bureaucracy grind slowly

Canada's refugee target to climb

By Catholic Register Staff

Since the Second World War, Canada has absorbed more than half a million refugees. If proposed changes to the refugee system are passed this year, Canada’s target for refugees would climb by 2,500 to 14,500.

Most of the increase would have to be met by private sponsors. Private sponsors, overwhelmingly churches and cultural associations, would be responsible for 2,000 of the additional refugees, while the remaining 500 would be government-sponsored.

Two-thousand-five-hundred also happens to be the target number of privately sponsored refugees for Canada’s embassy in Damascus, which handles Iraqi refugee cases from Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. The government will also sponsor 1,400 refugees on its own.

The targets for Iraqi refugees out of Damascus increased dramatically — 68 per cent — between 2008 and 2009. In 2008 the Damascus targets were just 900 privately sponsored refugees and 600 government sponsored, versus the new level of 3,900 and 1,400 beginning in 2009. Additional resources moved to the Damascus embassy have helped staff there clear its backlog of cases. With the backlog (they call it inventory) cleared, the Damascus embassy brought the processing time for Iraqi refugees down to 143 days in 2009.

This year, reaching the Iraqi refugee target comes down to finding enough private sponsors — again, churches — to submit completed sponsorship forms before the summer.

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