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Local communities open their doors to Syrian refugees

By Kate Shumakova [1]

BELLEVILLE – Local groups have been working to sponsor Syrian refugees since long before the picture of a dead three-year-old Syrian boy [2] on a Turkish beach stunned the world this month.

One of those groups is Belleville’s Bridge Street United Church [3]. Rev. David Mundy, the lead minister, noted that the national United Church of Canada [4] has been responding to the Syrian refugee crisis for several years now.

“Because the (United Church) as a denomination has already been working to bring families in, we (at Bridge Street United) are really connecting up with a family that’s already in the system to come to Canada,” he said. The family that Bridge Street is sponsoring consists of parents and three sons, Syrian refugees who are currently living in a camp in Lebanon.

The process is moving slowly and the family’s arrival date has not been set yet, Mundy said, but the church is hoping that the family comes before Christmas.

“One of them has a significant health issue,” Mundy said. “This could be a good community. There is good health care that’s all provided through the federal government.”

The Belleville community is not alone in its desire to help Syrian refugees. The Prince Edward County Syrian Refugee Fund [5] committee brought the community together to begin the process of settling a Syrian family of 15 to the county. Carlyn Moulton, the committee’s co-chair, said that the group hopes to sponsor more families.

“If every community took a family, that would be something. I think our community is large and generous enough that taking a few more people wouldn’t be a problem. And many people feel that we can take two or three or maybe four families,” she said.

That refugee family is also expected to arrive before Christmas.

Meanwhile, a group of volunteers in Cobourg named Better Together has just started its sponsorship journey. Hillary Valley, project co-leader, said that the Cobourg community feels very enthusiastic about a chance to help refugees.

http://www.qnetnews.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/ss.mp3 [6]


Better Together is hoping to welcome its family in February.

All three communities are working with Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s Blended-Visa Office-Referred Program.  [7] Under this program, the United Nations Refugee Agency refers refugees to Canadian visa offices abroad. According to its website, many of the refugees sponsored under this program will be travel-ready and could arrive in Canada within one to four months.

At least 350,000 migrants crossed the European Union’s borders between January and August of this year, compared with just 280,000 during the whole of 2014, according to the International Organization for Migration [8], and more than 3,000 migrants have died [9] crossing the Mediterranean this year.

Moulton, of the Prince Edward County group, said that in order to apply for the Canadian program, refugees must meet two criteria: they must have left Syria and they must be in a refugee camp.

“It can’t be a refugee who is Germany or who is in Hungary, she said, explaining that the federal program identifies families that local groups can sponsor.

Canada has brought in 2,500 Syrian refugees since 2011.