Yukon NDP supports community call for faster refugee application processing

Yukon NDP leader Liz Hanson made the following statement today regarding the Syrian refugee crisis:

Four years of violent conflict in Syria has resulted in more than 12 million people in need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria with more than 7 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). More than 300,000 people have risked their lives to cross the Mediterranean Sea this year. Over 2,600 didn't survive the dangerous crossing.

Each day we are confronted with images of drowned children, of people paddling in makeshift boats, and a human chain of desperate people walking hundreds of miles to seek a better, peaceful life far from their ancestral homes.

The causes of the conflict are complex and history in the region casts a long shadow. There are no quick military solutions to solve the conflict. But there are ways we can help refugees.

What we can do as Canadians is simple: we must open our doors and do what we can. The principle of providing a safe haven and opportunity to those fleeing war and political persecution is a most Canadian value. Canada has welcomed people fleeing persecution in places like Vietnam, Chile, El Salvador, Eritrea and the Balkans. It is an important part of our compassionate national identity.

Last week, I attended the first meeting of Yukon Cares, the community group that is mobilizing funds and applying political pressure so that Yukon does its fair share to respond to this crisis and welcome refugees from the region.

By the end of the week, the Yukon government signaled that it was ready to do something. The government statement said: “Once a refugee family has been identified we will be open to discussing funding commitments” and that it is “committed to providing settlement services for incoming refugees.”

This public statement is welcomed. It is – along with a $25,000 Red Cross donation – another small step towards what I hope will be a response from the Yukon government that matches the generosity of the Yukon public.

The process of identifying, selecting and financing refugee families was laid out at the Yukon Cares meeting. Those in attendance expressed frustration that the application process, the responsibility of the federal government, is too long that that there is a “bottleneck” – too few refugees are getting through to Canada. This is borne out by the huge gap between commitments (10,000) and the real number of Syrians who have actually arrived and settled (fewer than 2,500).

Over the weekend, under mounting criticism that they were doing far too little during this crisis, the federal government made a political U-turn to shorten the length of time needed to process refugee applications. However, this still means that the majority of those 10,000 Syrian refugees will have to wait until September 2016.

The Yukon NDP joins Yukoners who care about this issue in saying that greater urgency is needed to speed up the application process and settle Syrian families fleeing terror and violence.

We want to welcome them to their new home as soon as possible.

Donate and get involved

Until December 31, donations made by individual Canadians to registered Canadian charities responding to the Syria crisis will be matched by the Government of Canada.

There are many worthwhile organizations responding to the humanitarian crisis including Medicins Sans Frontiers, Red Cross, Oxfam Canada, Development and Peace, and the Humanitarian Coalition – composed of five leading aid agencies.

For information about Yukon Cares and getting involved in sponsoring Syrian refugees to live in Yukon, please contact [email protected]


Photo: dfid / flickr. Used under a Creative Commons BY 2.0 licence.