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N.L. can help Syrian refugees, a local says


The stark image of a young boy’s body, face down at the water’s edge on a Turkish beach, stopped the world in its tracks this week.

Three-year-old Alan Kurdi and his family, in an attempt to flee violence in Syria, had set out on a perilous trip to Kos, Greece. Their boat capsized in the night. Alan, his five-year-old brother Galip Kurdi and their mother died along with nine others who were on the boat. The boys’ father survived.

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Man who fled Kosovo in 1999 now heading Newfoundland's Human Rights Commission

Photos of Alan sparked outrage over immigration policy in Canada, where his family reportedly hoped to find refuge. Relatives living in this country had begun the process of getting them here with a sponsorship application to bring Alan’s uncle to the country, but after that application was rejected, the family decided to make the trip across the Mediterranean.

Remzi Cej, who left Kosovo with his family during the war in 1999 and immigrated to Newfoundland and Labrador in 2000, spoke with The Telegram about the Syrian refugee crisis and the Canadian government’s response to it. He said he spoke not in his capacity as chair of the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission, but as an individual with a personal interest in the matter.

“We have that history of admitting people, and I think we should live up to that standard that we have set up for ourselves,” he said.

He cited the prime minister’s promise to welcome 10,000 Syrian refugees over three years.

“Considering the fact that there are four million refugees in the region, and Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan have taken in pretty much about 70 per cent of those individuals ... I think we owe it both to Syrian refugees and the countries in the region — most of which we consider ally countries with the exception of Lebanon — to alleviate that burden. And we’ve been failing in that,” he said.

On Thursday, Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said the number of Syrian refugees in Canada is now around 2,300, and that the government has set a target of accepting 11,300 Syrian refugees.

UN officials say 250,000 people have been killed and more than one million have been wounded in Syria since March 2011. More than half the country’s population has been displaced, including more than four million who have fled Syria.

“I think 10,000 refugees over three years isn’t an appropriate response. Obviously the situation is much more dire than that,” Cej said.

“I came to this country in 2000 as part of the Canadian response to the Kosovo refugee crisis, which is not of the same proportions, but still amounted to nearly two million people displaced in the region in the Balkans. Canada at the time responded swiftly, within months of the war beginning, by taking in 5,000 refugees directly.”

Canada airlifted those refugees to refugee camps set up at military bases in several provinces.

“In my mind, that was how you respond to a refugee crisis that does not have the privilege of time. We can’t wait for private sponsorships that take years and years before an individual actually lands in this country,” he said.  

“We can’t claim that we are proud to take in refugees when we only take in 10,000 over three years, and at the same time put up all sorts of barriers.”

He added: “Canada's response to the Vietnamese refugee crisis was equally exemplary. The Kosovar and Vietnamese responses really show that we have no time to lose and must respond immediately and swiftly.”

 

ANC supports increase

Jamie Baker of the Association for New Canadians (ANC) said the organization would like to see more Syrian refugees accepted into this country.

“The Association for New Canadians supports a multi-pronged approach to responding to this crisis and is supportive of calls to increase the number of Syrian refugees coming to the country and efforts to facilitate and expedite family reunification,” he wrote to The Telegram.

While the country needs to amp up its response, Cej said, it’s important that Canada and other countries aim to end the crisis.

“It’s been simmering for so long, and refugees continue to empty out of Syria, and we continue to look on as if there was nothing we could do,” he said.

“Perhaps I’m just very personally involved in this, because as I read about the experiences of Syrian refugees in Europe and other parts of the world I’m reminded of my own experience, but I think we can all empathize with the experience of losing a home and not being able to return home. It’s not very difficult to imagine what that must be like for someone.

“And so often we block ourselves from empathy by saying, ‘I can’t imagine what that must be like,’ and in turn almost feel like there’s nothing we can do. And there’s so much we can do. Our voices matter, and I think Newfoundlanders and Labradorians would be wise in using them and calling for an end to this tragedy — or calling at least for action to respond to this tragedy.”

Cej suggested people can help by donating to relief agencies such as UNICEF and UNHCR, by pressing their federal candidate for increased government efforts, or by setting up a private sponsorship.

Baker added that in this province, people can co-sponsor refugees with the ANC through the Private Refugee Sponsorship Program, in which participants commit to providing financial support to refugees during their first year in Canada.

He added that people or businesses who want to help but can’t act as a co-sponsor can still donate to the ANC’s Private Sponsorship fund. For more information on either program, you can contact Ken Walsh at 726-3759.

 

 

— With files from The Canadian Press

Three-year-old Alan Kurdi and his family, in an attempt to flee violence in Syria, had set out on a perilous trip to Kos, Greece. Their boat capsized in the night. Alan, his five-year-old brother Galip Kurdi and their mother died along with nine others who were on the boat. The boys’ father survived.

RELATED STORY:

Man who fled Kosovo in 1999 now heading Newfoundland's Human Rights Commission

Photos of Alan sparked outrage over immigration policy in Canada, where his family reportedly hoped to find refuge. Relatives living in this country had begun the process of getting them here with a sponsorship application to bring Alan’s uncle to the country, but after that application was rejected, the family decided to make the trip across the Mediterranean.

Remzi Cej, who left Kosovo with his family during the war in 1999 and immigrated to Newfoundland and Labrador in 2000, spoke with The Telegram about the Syrian refugee crisis and the Canadian government’s response to it. He said he spoke not in his capacity as chair of the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission, but as an individual with a personal interest in the matter.

“We have that history of admitting people, and I think we should live up to that standard that we have set up for ourselves,” he said.

He cited the prime minister’s promise to welcome 10,000 Syrian refugees over three years.

“Considering the fact that there are four million refugees in the region, and Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan have taken in pretty much about 70 per cent of those individuals ... I think we owe it both to Syrian refugees and the countries in the region — most of which we consider ally countries with the exception of Lebanon — to alleviate that burden. And we’ve been failing in that,” he said.

On Thursday, Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said the number of Syrian refugees in Canada is now around 2,300, and that the government has set a target of accepting 11,300 Syrian refugees.

UN officials say 250,000 people have been killed and more than one million have been wounded in Syria since March 2011. More than half the country’s population has been displaced, including more than four million who have fled Syria.

“I think 10,000 refugees over three years isn’t an appropriate response. Obviously the situation is much more dire than that,” Cej said.

“I came to this country in 2000 as part of the Canadian response to the Kosovo refugee crisis, which is not of the same proportions, but still amounted to nearly two million people displaced in the region in the Balkans. Canada at the time responded swiftly, within months of the war beginning, by taking in 5,000 refugees directly.”

Canada airlifted those refugees to refugee camps set up at military bases in several provinces.

“In my mind, that was how you respond to a refugee crisis that does not have the privilege of time. We can’t wait for private sponsorships that take years and years before an individual actually lands in this country,” he said.  

“We can’t claim that we are proud to take in refugees when we only take in 10,000 over three years, and at the same time put up all sorts of barriers.”

He added: “Canada's response to the Vietnamese refugee crisis was equally exemplary. The Kosovar and Vietnamese responses really show that we have no time to lose and must respond immediately and swiftly.”

 

ANC supports increase

Jamie Baker of the Association for New Canadians (ANC) said the organization would like to see more Syrian refugees accepted into this country.

“The Association for New Canadians supports a multi-pronged approach to responding to this crisis and is supportive of calls to increase the number of Syrian refugees coming to the country and efforts to facilitate and expedite family reunification,” he wrote to The Telegram.

While the country needs to amp up its response, Cej said, it’s important that Canada and other countries aim to end the crisis.

“It’s been simmering for so long, and refugees continue to empty out of Syria, and we continue to look on as if there was nothing we could do,” he said.

“Perhaps I’m just very personally involved in this, because as I read about the experiences of Syrian refugees in Europe and other parts of the world I’m reminded of my own experience, but I think we can all empathize with the experience of losing a home and not being able to return home. It’s not very difficult to imagine what that must be like for someone.

“And so often we block ourselves from empathy by saying, ‘I can’t imagine what that must be like,’ and in turn almost feel like there’s nothing we can do. And there’s so much we can do. Our voices matter, and I think Newfoundlanders and Labradorians would be wise in using them and calling for an end to this tragedy — or calling at least for action to respond to this tragedy.”

Cej suggested people can help by donating to relief agencies such as UNICEF and UNHCR, by pressing their federal candidate for increased government efforts, or by setting up a private sponsorship.

Baker added that in this province, people can co-sponsor refugees with the ANC through the Private Refugee Sponsorship Program, in which participants commit to providing financial support to refugees during their first year in Canada.

He added that people or businesses who want to help but can’t act as a co-sponsor can still donate to the ANC’s Private Sponsorship fund. For more information on either program, you can contact Ken Walsh at 726-3759.

 

 

— With files from The Canadian Press

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