A visiting representative from the UNHCR Canada spoke eloquently and passionately to 70 invited guests on August 8th about the desperation of 1.4 million refugees who face almost certain death without the help of countries who are willing and able to take them in.
The August 8th event at MOSAIC headquarters was organized by the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program, in partnership with MOSAIC, and featured an address from Jean-Nicolas Beuze, who provided statistics and shared stories to highlight the need for countries such as Canada to step up regarding sponsorship of the world’s most vulnerable refugees.
Beuze said there are now 68.5 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, and over 25 million refugees recognized by the UN Refugee Agency. Of those who have refugee status, only .8% are predicted to ever be resettled to another country.
The focus of the presentation however, was on the plight of 1.4 million particularly vulnerable refugees. For this group, Beuze emphasized that sponsorship wasn’t about improving their lives, but about life and death itself. Members of this group include:
- Political dissidents, journalists, union leaders, community and human rights activists who can often be pursued beyond the borders of their home countries, returned and arrested with torture, imprisonment and/or death following
- LGBTQ individuals who face persecution in their own countries as well as the neighbouring countries they flee to
- Widows with young children to care for whom often turn to prostitution as their only viable source of income
- Disabled or ill individuals who will not receive care or support to keep them alive
“The cases I’m sharing with you tonight are real. It’s not about improving the lives of refugees, it’s really about life and death. Canada is a leader in resettlement and I’m asking you tonight to save a life”.
The evening began with words of welcome from MOSAIC CEO Olga Stachova, and an introduction from the Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) Program, which shares the financial cost to bring in vulnerable refugees with the sponsoring parties. Normally offering to cover half the cost – or six months of support – the BVOR announced that until September 17th, it was accepting applications to cover 100% of financial costs to bring in vulnerable refugees. Interested parties should contact the RSTP office.
Closing out the evening, Mohammed Alsaleh, RSTP Trainer for BC, shared his personal story. Alsaleh had been a medical student in Syria when he was arrested for participating in an uprising in 2014. Charged with terrorism, he was jailed on three occasions and tortured at 7 different detention centres. Alsaleh secured refugee status when he escaped to Lebanon and came to Canada with the first group of Syrian refugee arrivals to Canada and British Columbia.