By Alexandra Dawley, Program Manager – Refugee Settlement and Integration and Iris Challoner, Coordinator – Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program
2020 has been a year unlike any other – but even a global pandemic hasn’t stopped remarkable acts of kindness in support of refugees. This holiday season, as we reflect and step into the new year, we are grateful for the dedication of countless groups and individuals working with us to provide warm welcomes and life-changing programming for refugees.
Internationally, MOSAIC’s Operation #NotForgotten continues to break new ground with the support of concerned citizens from across Canada and Australia. Together, via Canada’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program, we are catalyzing the resettlement of hundreds of refugees who have been indefinitely detained in the South Pacific since 2013 as result of Australia’s Offshore Processing Policy. Sponsorship applications for 97 refugees and 83 family members have been submitted so far through this unprecedented initiative. We are grateful for the partnership of Ads Up Canada, UNHCR, the Refugee Council of Australia and many others who have been instrumental in the progression of this life saving project.
If walls could talk, the Vancouver Airport would have plenty to say about two beautiful moments of arrival witnessed this holiday season. Last month, MOSAIC assisted with the reunification of a refugee family who had been separated for five long years. We also had the pleasure of welcoming a refugee family of three who arrived in late November through the Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) program after months of resettlement delays due to COVID-19. Everyone is settling in well after their initial quarantine period.
Locally, refugee claimants throughout Vancouver and the Fraser Valley have been positively impacted by the generosity of individuals and humanitarian groups who mobilized to provide warmth, joy, and a sense of welcome this season. As one of the largest refugee claimant service providers in Western Canada, we recognize the incredible resilience as well as the marginalization faced by this newcomer group.
Refugee claimants face unique vulnerabilities because they aren’t eligible for many government programs and don’t typically have the same social networks as resettled refugees. For this reason, we are particularly grateful to have collaborated with Khalsa Aid Canada, One World United, Aspenwood Elementary School, and St. Thomas More Collegiate for an ambitious distribution project. A total of 320 new toys, 175 new winter jackets, 150 new pairs of socks, 50 hand-made holiday cards, and over $2000 in grocery store gift cards were collected and distributed to hundreds of refugee claimants this month.
Refugees make significant positive contributions to Canadian society – both economically and socially. We are proud to welcome refugees because everyone deserves safety. In doing so, we are welcoming entrepreneurs, artists, community workers and new neighbors. Thank you for your generosity, which enables us to provide these essential resettlement initiatives and vital settlement support as people begin the next phase of their life here in Canada.