Refugee sponsorship groups urge Ottawa to clear backlog

Andrew FitzGerald made a plea to Ottawa on World Refugee Day: please clear the backlog of the private sponsorship program by June 30, 2018.It’s a demand echoed across Canada by church and community groups, some having been waiting for as many as five years to resettle their matched refugees to Canada for a safe, stable life.“There is a backlog of 45,000 people sitting with the immigration department. Some are partially processed,” said FitzGerald of Canada4Refugees, a grassroots advocacy group for the private sponsorship community.“The government has said it’s taking in 16,000 privately sponsored refugees a year and the goal was to clear the backlog by the end of 2019. But new applications keep coming. At the rate things are going, we are concerned it won’t happen.”A petition launched by Canada4Refugees on Tuesday has already got the endorsement of the Office for Refugees, Archdiocese of Toronto, the Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims, as well as other refugee advocacy groups. The United Nations has designated June 20 as World Refugee Day.Article Continued BelowBernie Derible, spokesperson for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, said the government inherited two-thirds of the backlog from its Conservative predecessor, which imposed a much lower annual quota for privately sponsored refugees from around the world. Officials had to prioritize resources to handle the massive public interest in resettling Syrian refugees to Canada over the last two years, said Derible, but the government is committed to bringing the private sponsorship program operation back on track.“We need a disciplined approach to get the backlog done,” Derible told the Star on Tuesday, adding that ongoing applications inflow had already been factored in with the government’s 2019 timeline.