Categorized | Immigration

Sponsored refugees fare better than government-assisted peers, study shows

Posted on 02 November 2016 by admin

Refugees sponsored by community groups do better than government-assisted ones with fewer relying on food banks and social assistance, an evaluation of Canada’s much heralded resettlement program shows.

Some 65 per cent of government-assisted refugees reported using food banks, compared to only 29 per cent of their privately sponsored counterparts, according to the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada report released this week.

Five years after their arrival, 41 per cent of government-assisted refugees relied on social assistance, compared to just 28 per cent among those sponsored by private groups. While six out of 10 of the former were employed within five years, the rate went up to 7 out of 10 for their privately sponsored peers.

The relative success of privately sponsored refugees is bolstered, in part, by the stability and guidance offered by relatives or sponsorship groups, advocates say.

Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said she was not surprised with the findings.

 “Privately-sponsored refugees usually have family members in Canada for support and they are not selected for their vulnerability like the GARs (government-assisted refugees) are,” she explained. “Clearly the report shows there is not enough support for GARs.”

The internal review examined all aspects of the refugee resettlement programs — government-assisted, private sponsorship, the blended-visa program, which is a blend of the two, and the resettlement assistance program — between 2010 and 2015, before Ottawa opened its doors to 31,000 Syrian refugees in December.

During the period, a total of 49,516 refugees were resettled in Canada, 53 per cent of them under the government-assisted program, 46 per cent sponsored by private community groups and just 1 per cent under the blended-visa program.

Thirty-nine per cent of government-assisted refugees were children, compared to just 30 per cent among their privately-sponsored and blended counterparts.

While two out of five privately-sponsored refugees know either English or French, the rate dropped to 26 per cent among the government-supported refugees. Those referred by visa posts under the blended program had the highest needs, with only 14 per cent speaking one of the two official languages.

Through interviews and analysis of data, the review found the level of the refugee assistance program’s income support is inadequate, with more than half of government-sponsored refugees saying the money did not cover their essential needs.

The majority of their income support goes to housing, leaving little for other basic necessities. While it took government-assisted refugees an average of 3.7 weeks to secure permanent housing, it took more than twice the time for private sponsorship groups to do so.

After 10 years, the review showed that the government-assisted group had annual employment earnings of $32,000 versus $33,000 for privately-sponsored refugees.

The evaluation also identified other problems and gaps in the resettlement programs: lengthy processing times for privately sponsored refugees and a lack of clear roles and responsibilities concerning the internal operation of the programs — issues raised in previous program reviews.

While government-assisted refugees are processed on average within two years, those sponsored by community groups often have to wait as many as 54 months — up 50 per cent from the 36 months in 2010.

Between 2010 and 2014, the backlog for the government sponsorship program went up by 29 per cent to almost 11,000, compared to an 8 per cent fall for private cases to 18,762.

About a quarter of the settlement agreement holders also said they had experienced at least one breakdown of a sponsorship relationship — a failure to meet the sponsorship arrangement of care for a refugee or family — in the past five years.

“There are a lot of groups that want to do private sponsorships as a result of the Syrian resettlement efforts. There is a lot of energy, opportunity and availability. If the government does not make it more responsive to these groups, we are going to lose them,” said Dench.

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