Syrian refugees walk at Zaatari refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria. Catholic Crosscultural Services has teamed with the federal government to try and link Syrian refugees with family and sponsors in Canada. CNS photo/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters

Catholic Crosscultural Services teams with federal government to link Syrians

  • February 11, 2016

TORONTO - The federal government is seeking to pair displaced Syrian refugees fleeing the civil war in their homeland with their families already in Canada or with groups ready to sponsor them.

Syrian Family Links allows Syrians in Canada to identify members of their extended family currently in refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon or Jordan by filling out a form on the Citizenship and Immigration Canada web site. Similarly groups ready to sponsor a refugee identify themselves as such by filling out a form.

Then the web site helps facilitate a match.

It is a joint effort between Citizenship and Immigration Canada and Catholic Crosscultural Services.

“There are very few ways for people who want to sponsor to find a case unless they happen to be personally, or otherwise through an organization, acquainted with someone who has family who needs to be sponsored,” said Carolyn Davis, executive director of Catholic Crosscultural Services. “So if you didn’t know a family or know of someone who knew of a family that wanted to be sponsored you would have no way of connecting. There isn’t a registry somewhere that is publicly accessible.”

Catholic Crosscultural Services is a non-profit agency that assists in the settlement and integration of immigrants and refugees in Canada.

The program launched in late January and is expected to be utilized by many of the government- assisted refugees who began arriving in Canada on Dec. 10. Although the government is committed to sponsoring 25,000 Syrian refugees by Feb. 26, many families will have been broken up, which can make resettling more difficult.

“When a family unit is settled, say here in Canada, it is easier for them to settle and integrate more effectively if their whole family is here,” said Davis. “You can focus your time and your energy on doing what you need to do to settle and to be integrated into life in Canada. It is sometimes difficult to make those moves if you are spending a lot of time and energy thinking about and stressing about family who are overseas.”

Davis said because the Syrians being targeted by this program “have been displaced out of their own country of course family is important to them, and now even more so.” She noted that when she returned to work the morning after the web site was launched 45 cases had been filed.

The Canadian Council for Refugees is pleased with the new federal government program, noting that unified families make for strong societies.

“We belong in families. It makes us a stronger society in general if we support family reunification,” said Janet Dench, the council’s executive director. “If you are separated from your family that is a difficult situation and it is even more difficult for refugees who have not chosen to move. Refugees in Canada cannot feel completely comfortable and focus entirely on settling in Canada if they are constantly in a state of great anxiety (about their separation from their family.)”

Dench said the program addresses a number of gaps, such as the identification of refugees, pairing sponsors with refugee candidates likely to succeed in Canada and reunification by utilizing modern technology trends.

Although the program is scheduled to end on March 31 and is limited to three regions, there is no cap regarding how many pairs can be produced, how many matches will be made, during the next two months.

For more information or to fill out one of the forms visit

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