We must help all refugees

While Syrian refugees are a crisis we must not forget the rest of the world

“Open hearts and welcoming communities: it’s the Canadian way,” states the Canadian Immigration and Citizenship (CIC) website.

So far, 21,672 Syrian refugees have come to Canada. 47 successful flights to Toronto and 35 to Montreal; free dental health buses; numerous fundraising events, from bake sales to planetarium shows; and a Facebook-like page on CIC’s official website with Monday to Friday updates—that’s the good side.

With 10,400 pending claims as of Dec. 31, 2015 and less than 25,000 refugees for the whole year of 2014; the UN has reported a lack of interest in coming to Canada among Syrian refugees—that is the bad side.

However, not all refugees are being treated equally.

Recently featured in the Toronto Star, Solomon is a 16-year-old refugee from Ethiopia. Upon landing in Canada, no one was waiting for him with cameras; neither did he get his winter jacket. Needless to say, nor was Justin Trudeau there to shake his hand.

“The problem is that the immigration department that we inherited, people have been waiting for years for many things,” said John McCallum, the federal minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, is almost blaming the previous government, after a panel discussion in Toronto.

According to data from CIC, the average wait time for private refugee sponsorships originating in Africa and the Middle East in 2015 was 45 months, a marked contrast to the quick turnaround expected for the incoming Syrian refugees. In some visa offices, waits can reach up to 69 months—or just shy of six years.

Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said in theToronto Star article, there have been numerous concessions made specifically for Syrian refugees. As an example, she mentioned that the country’s sponsorship agreement holders are able to bring in as many Syrians as they want to.

Those coming from Syria and Iraq do not need official recognition for private sponsorship, unlike other refugees, which worsens the existing gap between them and refugees from other countries.

While Canada needs to help settle refugees from Syria, which is a major global crisis, we must not leave behind refugees from other parts of the world.

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We must help all refugees