Earlier this year, the Afghan government fell, and the Taliban took control of the country. The result of the events in Afghanistan created a large number of refugees. However, Canada was ready for the development and announced a plan to accept 20,000 refugees from Afghanistan who had been impacted by the conflict into Canada. In August, the first of these refugees started arriving in Canada and they have continued to travel to Canada throughout the rest of 2021. As of December 2, 2021, Canada has welcomed around 4,000 Afghan refugees into the country, including 472 NATO-identified locally engaged staff on December 8. Canada will continue to welcome more refugees from Afghanistan throughout the rest of 2021 and 2022.
Many of the refugees coming to Canada from Afghanistan are now privately sponsored refugees. The privately sponsored refugees from Afghanistan recently began arriving in Canada, with the first group of 250 people arriving on December 2. More privately sponsored refugees from Afghanistan will continue to arrive as Canada is still not close to its goal of welcoming 20,000 Afghans into the country.
The private sponsorship program allows Canadians to play an integral role in welcoming refugees to Canada, by sponsoring them. Sponsors can be groups of Canadians or organizations, including faith groups, ethnocultural associations, or settlement organizations. Private sponsorship of refugees was established in the late 1970s and has since helped welcome around 333,000 refugees to Canada, making it a viable option for bringing refugees to Canada.
In order to privately sponsor a refugee, there are certain requirements that first must be met. The private sponsor must support a refugee for the entirety of the sponsorship period, which is usually up to one year. The support that the sponsor is required to provide includes start-up costs for items such as furniture and clothing, ongoing monthly costs for basic necessities, including housing, food, and public transportation, as well as social and emotional support for the sponsored refugee.
Canadian citizens and permanent residents cannot sponsor refugees on their own. Instead, a potential private refugee sponsor must be part of an approved group that can sponsor refugees. Sponsorship Agreement Holders sign agreements directly with the Government of Canada to help support refugees when they arrive in Canada. Constituent Groups work with Sponsorship Agreement Holders to sponsor refugees. Groups of five or more Canadian citizens or permanent residents who sponsor refugees to settle in their communities are Community Sponsors.
If you are part of a group that can sponsor refugees, your group must then decide how to sponsor a refugee and potentially which refugee you would like to sponsor.
There are some groups of refugees that have been approved to come to Canada by the government. The Blended Visa Office-Referred Program helps groups sponsor refugees that have been determined to be the most in need while lowering the cost of sponsorship. The Blended Visa Office-Referred Program reduces the financial burden on private sponsors, prioritizes the most vulnerable refugees through referral organizations and connects sponsors with refugees that have already been screened and interviewed, making them ready to travel sooner. Up to six months of financial support is offered by the government after the refugees arrive in Canada.
There is also an option to sponsor a refugee who has special needs through the Joint Assistance Sponsorship Program. The requirements to sponsor through this program are more stringent than for the Blended Visa Office-Referral Program. Only Sponsorship Agreement Holders and Constituent groups can sponsor through the Joint Assistance Program and sponsors through the program must support the refugee sponsors for up to 24 months. The Government of Canada does provide some financial assistance to those in the program in order to offset some of the 24-month support cost.
A third option to privately sponsor a refugee is to sponsor a specific refugee or refugee family. If you choose to sponsor a refugee you know, the Government of Canada indicates that the processing time could be longer than if you sponsor through the Blended Visa Office Referred Program or the Joint Assistance Program. Further, the government will not provide financial assistance for the sponsorship. The process for sponsoring a refugee privately also depends on your type of sponsorship group.
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