Eyob Naizghi Speaks at Vancouver Forum

The City of Vancouver hosted a forum on September 8, 2015 on what can be done here to help Syrian refugees. Featured speakers at the event were Eyob Naizghi, Executive Director for MOSAIC, and Chris Friesen, Director of Settlement Services for ISSofBC.More than 200 people flooded into City Hall for the hastily-convened public forum, many calling for immediate action.Eyob Naizghi pointed out that there is a difference between immigrants and refugees, outlining the challenges and perils which migrants face on their journeys. He shared his own experiences as a government-sponsored refugee to Canada in the 80’s, saying he left Africa with nothing on his back, and that frequently refugees need to just flee for their safety. He contrasted this to the immigrant experience of choosing the time and method of their departures to their adopted new homelands.Naizghi also cautioned that “history will judge us” if we don’t step up to offer assistance during this global humanitarian crisis.Mayor Gregor Robertson says he would like the city to become a sanctuary for people trying to get away from the civil war, and that Vancouver has committed $4.4 million towards housing for refugees. He is calling upon the federal government to directly sponsor 20,000 refugees each year, by 2020.  Last year, the federal government only allowed 7,573 government-sponsored refugees into Canada, a decrease of 17%  from the years 2007 to 2012. Approximately 800 refugees per year are alocated to BC.Chris Friesen provided statistics related to refugee settlement and resettlement. One sobering item is that although the UN made a request to 28 countries to take in 1.15 million refugees last year, in fact only 74,000 were actually resettled.As many people and groups have been requesting information on how they can assist in the effort to alleviate the crisis, Friesen listed the top three ways people can help. First, he suggests donating to organizations already on the front lines such as the UN Refugee Agency. Second, he recommended donating to local, experienced organizations and, third, work with existing sponsorship agreement holders to offer help with fundraising and volunteering as the process to become a sponsor can be a lengthy and complicated process.MOSAIC, with the encouragement of its Board of Directors, announced on September 4 that the organization was ready and willing to provide settlement support for up to 1,000 refugees immediately. The assistance would include one-to-one support; interpretation services; finding accommodation; and connections to local and community resources.