A Refugee Law Office Highlights the Generosity of Others in Hopes of Inspiring Us to Action
The Syrian refugee crisis isn’t a new occurrence—it has been ongoing since the Syrian civil war broke out four years ago. Every refugee law office has kept a steady eye on this developing crisis, which has displaced more people than any other crisis in recent decades; four millions Syrians have fled the country, while twice as many are displaced within, unable to leave.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada has committed to resettle a small fraction of the four million, and has so far struggled to meet its own timeline for this promise. But Canada is not the only country accepting refugees, and perhaps we can look to other, nearer countries for inspiration.
Syria’s own neighbours, particularly Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq, have resettled the majority of asylum seekers from Syria. Turkey hosts about two million Syrians, while both Lebanon and Jordan are host to approximately one million each. For Lebanon, a country with roughly twice the land mass of Prince Edward Island, our smallest province, this is particularly impressive; the accepted refugees make up a quarter of its population. And Iraq—its infrastructure still recovering from an eight-year occupation and dealing with IS and its own displaced people—has accepted nearly 300,000 Syrians. By comparison, despite our country’s relative space, resources, and infrastructure, Citizenship and Immigration Canada aims to have settled 10,000 by the end of 2017.
This refugee law office also looks with great reverence towards several European Union nations, and the measures of governments, NGOs, and even ordinary citizens to help in any way they can.
In Berlin, Germany, a group called Refugees Welcome has been working to match Syrian and other refugees from crisis areas with households willing to share their homes. As of the beginning of September, over 780 German households had signed up, and 26 refugees have been hosted. It’s a small number, but it’s growing, and it represents a deep compassion for human life. After the Icelandic government only accepted 50 Syrian refugees to their island nation of 330,000, over 10,000 people in the Scandinavian nation urged the government to do more. Many of them offered their own homes and other means of support and aid. In Greece, which is in the grips of a major financial crisis, the Aegean islands are becoming refuges, and the NGO Agkalia, as well as the social kitchen O Allos Anthropos, offer support to many.
Here in Canada we have been proud to boast of our reputation as a welcoming country—but in light of this, we have a lot to learn from our friends in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Germany, Iceland, Greece, and many others. It is the hope of this refugee law office that you will be inspired by the compassion and generosity of these countries, and that you will do your part to push for a more welcoming Canada. Immigration in Canada has become an increasingly complex issue over the past decade, but we can improve it, and live up to our pride once more.