Sponsoring a refugee family from Syria will probably be something you will be proud of for your whole life. It will be emotionally moving and satisfying as the family makes a new life for themselves, with your assistance, in Cape Breton.
But it will take some of your time and money for at least the next year, and you will not be able to do it alone. You will need to work with others to share the tasks and support the refugee family to successfully settle here. We believe that after the first year you will be amazed at how much your energy and commitment has been able to accomplish and how much the refugees you have sponsored have benefited from your involvement.
Because there are many responsibilities, we believe a sponsoring group should include five or more individuals who can share the load. The two main areas that every group will be responsible for providing are time and finances.
The first month will likely be the most demanding as the family deals with the shock of coming to an entirely new place and starting a new life, but over time as their comfort level in Canada increases, the need for your support will be reduced.
Specifically as a sponsoring group you will do the following during the first 12 months:
- Work to acquire as much information/detail as possible about the family before their arrival (how many in the family, ages, languages spoken, education levels, professions, religion, place of origin, most recent locale, immediate health care needs, children’s immediate needs, etc.)
- Make arrangements for where the family will stay upon arrival
- Arrange for interpreter services for their arrival, if needed
- Meet the family at the airport and escort them to accommodation
- Assist the family in finding long-term housing and ensuring the costs for housing are covered;
- Assist the family in understanding lease obligations and in completing their lease (and getting copies of all pertinent paperwork from landlord, as applicable)
- During the first month, ensure that the family understands how to make monthly rent payments, that they will receive receipts from landlords (where applicable) and that they understand options around tenant’s insurance
- Make sure that the family’s needs are covered for clothing and outerwear, furnishings, and food;
- Assist the family with transportation for the first few weeks as they set up their home
- Plan for refugees to see a healthcare worker shortly after their arrival
- Assist refugees in selecting a family physician and dentist
- Assist refugees in applying for federal/provincial health insurance
- Assist with enrolling children in school (if applicable)
- Assist with enrolling adults in language training programs (if applicable)
- Help members of the family find appropriate training or employment
- Assist with securing child care for work and/or language training commitments (if applicable)
- Make sure the family is given a general orientation to the area and its public transportation system;
- Help to fill in the knowledge gaps that everyone experiences when moving to a new city or country.
- Connect refugees with appropriate counselling/traumatic experience services and support groups
- Assist refugees in opening a bank account at a local branch or credit union
- Connect refugees with any existing/available settlement services workers/offices
- Over time, connect refugees with their community of faith or origin (if applicable/if existing in the community)
- Over time, connect refugees with the local library system and assist them in obtaining a library card
- Over time, connect refugees with community centres and recreation facilities
- Over time, connect families with children’s programming in the local community (resource centres, play groups, etc.)
- As they become settled, assist refugees in obtaining a driver’s license if needed/desired
Types of Sponsorship
There are three main types of sponsorship of refugees in Canada. These are detailed in the chart below. Each requires different financial contributions/responsibilities.
Once a refugee arrives in Canada, they are immediately granted permanent residency.
Estimated costs per refugee or refugee are outlined in the table below. In a private sponsorship arrangement, the sponsor is responsible for the full costs. In a blended visa office referred arrangement, the costs are shared between sponsors and government. With government assisted refugees, the government covers the costs per refugee or refugee family. It is through this latter category, government assisted refugees, that the government of Canada has recently agreed to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees.
In a private sponsorship, a refugee family of four, for example, will require a minimum of about $20,000 for support for a year plus start up costs of $7000; a family of five, about $22,500 plus $7200 start up. This is roughly equivalent to Social Assistance payments.
Start up money is used to buy household items, such as beds and pots and pans, and other items that the refugees might not have, such as winter clothing. Start-up costs – housing deposits, furniture, utilities, clothing etc. – are required at the beginning of a sponsorship, while housing, food and transportation will be ongoing expenses.
Smaller families involve lower costs. These costs can be reduced by donations in kind, such as by providing a place to live. A rough rule of thumb is that the cost will be equivalent to what a family on social assistance would receive. If a refugee becomes financially self-sufficient during the 12-month sponsorship period, the sponsors are not obligated to provide income support for the remainder of the sponsorship. But they must be prepared to resume assistance if the refugee ceases to be self-sufficient during their first year in Canada.
Refugees resettled in Canada are responsible for paying for their overseas medical examination, travel documents and transportation costs to Canada. They may receive a repayable loan from the government to cover these costs.
Sponsoring Groups are not responsible, unless they have co-signed loans, for any debt that a refugee incurs in Canada.
After the first twelve months, the formal sponsorship commitments end, but we hope that sponsoring groups will have created strong links with the family that will make them want to stay in touch.