Expanding Canada’s Refugee Resettlement Programs

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Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney launched a series of proposed reforms to Canada’s refugee system, beginning with a commitment to resettle 2,500 more UN-selected refugees living in refugee camps and urban slums once the package is approved.

“Millions of people have fled violence and persecution to seek refuge outside their home countries and we would like to do more to provide them with protection in Canada,” said Minister Kenney. “We know that we can’t help everyone. But what we can do is introduce balanced reforms to our refugee system that will allow us to expand our refugee resettlement programs to provide protection to more people.”

The Government-Assisted Refugees Program would be expanded over time by up to 500 places while a further 2,000 resettlement places would be added to the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program. This means that Canada would annually resettle as many as 14,500 UN-selected refugees from refugee camps and urban slums.

The increase would begin once Parliament approves legislation to be introduced tomorrow to improve the in-Canada asylum system. “We have been clear that Parliament enacting balanced reforms to our asylum system will be met by more government help for refugees living in desperate circumstances around the world and in urgent need of resettlement,” the Minister said.

There are an estimated 10.5 million UN-designated refugees living in refugee camps and urban slums in the world today. Countries with refugee resettlement programs resettle about 100,000 refugees from abroad each year. Of that number, Canada annually resettles 10,000 to 12,000, or one out of every 10 refugees resettled globally, through its government-assisted and privately sponsored refugee programs. In 2008, Canada was second to the United States among all industrialized countries for providing protection to refugees from abroad and at home.

“This is an encouraging move in the right direction that yet again demonstrates the humanitarian commitment of Canada to provide protection to needy refugees for whom resettlement is the only solution enabling them to rebuild their shattered lives with respect and dignity,” said Abraham Abraham, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) Canadian representative. “The UNHCR remains grateful to the Government and people of Canada for their continued generosity and hospitality in making this possible.”

The Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP) helps government-assisted refugees successfully integrate into Canadian society and the job market by providing immediate and essential services and income support on arrival. The balanced reforms to our refugee system would allow the Government of Canada to increase RAP funding by 20 percent from about $45 million to a total of $54 million. The first permanent funding increase in over 10 years, the investment would give those we welcome the support they need to begin their new lives in Canada. This would allow refugee resettlement assistance to catch up with and maintain alignment with provincial social assistance rates in order to provide refugees with access to immediate and essential services provided under RAP.

The amount of monthly income support provided to government-assisted refugees is based on prevailing provincial social assistance rates and provides the minimum amount required to cover only the most basic food and shelter needs until the refugees are able to become self-sufficient. This support is normally available for up to one year but may extend up to two years for refugees with special needs.

Spread over five years, enhancements to Canada’s resettlement program for refugees abroad would cost $90.7 million plus $21 million in ongoing funding.

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