Backgrounder Article from  Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada

Syrian Refugees Destination Communities

Refugees arriving from Syria will be a mix of government-assisted refugees (GARs), privately sponsored refugees (PSRs), and blended visa office-referred refugees (BVORs). Where they will go after arriving in Canada—known as their destination community—is based on one of these three programs.

The Government of Canada is working with provinces and territories, municipalities, the refugee sponsorship community, settlement organizations and other stakeholders to ensure that Syrian refugees are destined to appropriate communities.

Government-assisted refugees

The destination community for a GAR is determined by the Matching Centre at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). The Matching Centre’s priority is to find a community where the refugees can receive services through a support network that can help them adjust to life in Canada.

The community matching process starts with the Matching Centre working with our visa offices abroad to learn about the background and unique needs of each GAR who has been accepted for resettlement to Canada.

Canada funds organizations as part of the Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP) to provide immediate and essential support services to refugees on their arrival in Canada to help them settle and integrate into life in Canada.

The RAP is a national program for GARs. The province of Quebec receives separate funding as part of the Canada-Quebec Accord to provide similar services to eligible refugees destined to that province. Currently, RAP service provider organizations are in place in 36 cities across Canada, including 13 in the province of Quebec.    

Working closely with IRCC’s regional and local offices, the Matching Centre identifies which cities are best equipped to address each refugee’s needs. Decisions on destination communities are based on criteria that include:

  • where confirmed family/contacts live in Canada;
  • availability of services for special resettlement and medical needs such as trauma counselling;
  • ethnic, cultural and religious communities in the area;
  • capacity in the community based on the resources available; and
  • other factors such as language, occupations, and family configuration.

Once a destination city has been identified, the Matching Centre informs the visa office, and travel arrangements for the refugee will be made by the International Organization for Migration. Final arrival details are then sent to the Matching Centre, which shares them with local IRCC offices, ports of entry, service-provider organizations and sponsoring groups (if applicable) to help in preparing for the refugee’s arrival.

Refugees like other permanent residents reside in many locations. Although destined to one of 36 cities across Canada where there are services specifically for refugees, they may subsequently reside in surrounding communities. For example, a refugee arriving in Vancouver may receive refugee resettlement services in Vancouver, and then move on to another community in British Columbia with settlement services.

Privately sponsored refugees

The destination community for a PSR is determined by where their private sponsor lives. As part of their sponsorship application submitted to IRCC, the sponsor agrees to provide the refugee with care, lodging, settlement assistance and support for a period of at least one year. Once a sponsorship application is approved, PSRs go to a broad range of destination communities, big and small, across Canada where their private sponsor is based. 

The supports that a private sponsor normally provides include:

  • providing the cost of food, rent and household utilities and other day-to-day living expenses;
  • providing clothing, furniture and other household goods;
  • locating interpreters;
  • selecting a family physician and dentist;
  • assisting with applying for provincial health-care coverage;
  • enrolling children in school and adults in language training;
  • introducing newcomers to people with similar personal interests;
  • providing orientation with regard to banking services, transportation, etc.; and
  • helping in the search for employment.

Many resettled refugees arrive in Canada with significant challenges to overcome as they begin their new lives here. Some of the challenges include learning English or French, immediate health concerns, a need to obtain certification, licensing, and to have foreign education recognized to work in their field, a lack of informal networks and/or other barriers. Private sponsors provide an immediate support group for new arrivals as well as a network of contacts to help them adjust to life in Canada more quickly. The sponsor also provides a full year of emotional and social support.

Blended visa office-referred refugees

The destination community for a BVOR is also determined by where their private sponsor lives.  These refugees, like GARs, are initially identified by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). As visa officers process refugee applications through the GAR Program, cases that might be suitable for the BVOR Program are identified and information about the refugee’s case is made available to sponsors. Sponsors identify and apply to sponsor a specific refugee or a refugee family through the BVOR Program, and if approved, a match is made.

As with PSRs, BVORs go to a broad range of destination communities, big and small, across Canada where their private sponsor lives. In these cases, the Government of Canada provides up to six months of income support through the RAP, while private sponsors provide another six months of financial support and up to a year of social and emotional support.

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