A group made up of the University of Victoria political science community is trying to sponsor a refugee family.
The 20-person team is working in conjunction with the Intercultural Association of Greater Victoria (ICA) to sponsor the family and help narrow the gap between the number of refugee spaces available in Canada and the actual number that make it here.
According to a document released by the group, in August 2018 Canada’s blended visa office-referred (BVOR) program had a capacity of 1,500 refugee cases, but more than 1,000 were left unclaimed due to lack of sponsorship.
Robin Bayley is a UVic alumnus, while her husband is a professor at UVic. Both are part of the sponsorship group.
“After the initial Syrian crisis it just hasn’t received a lot of attention,” Bayley said. “People might not realize that there’s fully vetted refugees in desperate need that have essentially gone unclaimed.”
That’s largely due to cost. According to Bayley, sponsoring a family through the BVOR and the ICA takes at least $30,000. That number can be higher depending on the makeup of the family, but groups typically don’t find out that information until shortly before the family arrives. The government does provide some funding as well, although Bayley said a nuclear family would be entitled to just under $10,000 from the federal government over a six-month period.
“It’s meant to be what the equivalent family would get from income supports from the province,” Bayley said. “It’s obviously too little to live in Victoria’s rental market.”
The UVic group is taking donations online and directly through the ICA. They hope to hit $15,000 by the end of the month, allowing them to get on the list to receive a family. If they miss the deadline it would be one more month before they can put their hands up to officially sponsor a family.
After arrival, they would need to continue fundraising at least until they hit the $30,000 mark. However, Bayley said the group hopes members of the public will be able to pick up the financial burden, as the group expects to take on full-time roles as mentors, advisors, helpers and friends to the family.
“My husband and I jumped on board right away. We like to think of ourselves as progressive people and we are appalled by the anti-immigration sentiment sweeping across the world,” Bayley said. “It’s one thing to speak amongst friends in a pro immigration way, but it’s another to actually back that up with actions, and we felt compelled to do that.”
Online donations to the group can be made at https://chimp.net/groups/support-a-refugee-family-for-resettlement-in-victoria, or by getting in contact with ICA.