Nanaimo multicultural society supports refugee process

NANAIMO – Groups in Nanaimo are working to bring Syrian refugees to Canada.

The ongoing civil war in Syria has forced millions to flee the country in search of a better life.

And with no end to the civil war in sight, a handful of groups in the Harbour City are hoping to bring refugees to the Island.

Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Society executive director Hilde Schlosar says those who want to sponsor a refugee should do so with an existing group, such as a church.

“We suggest that you get involved with a group that exists already and help them as part of the sponsorship group or their wider volunteer and fundraising needs,” she said.

According to Schlosar, there are more than five groups within the Nanaimo region that are working toward sponsoring a refugee, including Brechin United Church.

Schlosar says people should contact the society, which will then put them in touch with one of the numerous groups involved in sponsoring a refugee.

“There are quite a number of groups that already exist … and if they are interested in joining a sponsorship group or starting their own group, they can connect with us and we will connect them with the groups.”

Sponsoring a refugee is a complicated and time-consuming process. Under the Canadian Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program there are three main types of sponsorships: privately sponsored, joint assistance sponsorship and government assisted.

Groups of five or more Canadian citizens or permanent residents, who are over the age of 18, can sponsor refugees through the private-sponsored program. Legally, sponsors or sponsorship groups must commit up to one year of basic financial support and care for a refugee.

“It requires a significant amount of money and commitment for a year when they are here…” she said. “Some sponsorship groups have been waiting as long as a year and a half for their refugee to arrive.”

While the financial support can be a daunting task on its own, sponsors need to consider even the smallest details, such as trying to ensure everything from respecting and honouring the refugees’ religious customs to helping them integrate into Canadian society. The multicultural society provides settlement services for refugees.

Schlosar says if people don’t want to sponsor a refugee, there are other ways to help out.

“There are opportunities for volunteers to assist groups in fundraising and collecting goods and donations for the families when they arrive,” Schlosar said.

The society has also established a refugee fund on its website.

“The money goes entirely to the families that end up here in our region, Nanaimo and regional district,” Schlosar said.  “So none of their money is going overseas and none of it is being spent on administration, but it is actually designated for families.”

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