18 Jan UNHCR updates on resettlement activities for 2015-2016

By: Michael Casasola, Resettlement Officer, UNHCR Canada

Learn more about the UNHCR, a critical actor in the field of refugee resettlement and partner of the IOM.

Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, refugees can only be considered for resettlement if they are referred by the UNHCR (or another referral organization) or have a private sponsor. UNHCR’s role in providing protection and finding a solution for refugees is in keeping with the mandate given to it by the UN General Assembly in 1950. For Canada, UNHCR resettlement referrals are the primary source of refugees for the national Government-Assisted Refugee (GAR) program as well as the more recent Blended Visa Officer Referred (BVOR) program.

UNHCR’s role in finding solutions for refugees as well as Canada’s long tradition of refugee resettlement, makes Canada’s resettlement programs an important part of UNHCR’s engagement with Canada. The UNHCR Office in Canada opened its doors in 1976. While much of the Agency’s work in Canada focuses on its mandate in relation to the refugee Convention and private sector fundraising, it also works to support UNHCR resettlement activities prior to arrival in Canada and promote complementarity between UNHCR and Canada’s programs. It also works to facilitate family reunification of refugees where UNHCR may have a role as well as responding to resettlement- related information queries from the general public including NGOs, private sponsors and MP offices.

UNHCR has enjoyed strong cooperation from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and NGOs across Canada. One example of this cooperation is an ongoing project UNHCR Canada has undertaken to monitor the processing of UNHCR emergency resettlement submissions to Canada; cases which are considered under Canada’s Urgent Protection Program. In keeping with UNHCR guidelines, UNHCR field offices inform UNHCR Canada of the submission of all resettlement submissions to Canada that are designated as an “emergency” priority. UNHCR Canada has an informal protocol with IRCC through which it shares this information with IRCC who, in turn, shares the information with their security partners in order to try to expedite processing of the emergency case from the Canadian side while the Canadian mission evaluates the submission overseas. In addition, UNHCR Canada monitors all emergency submissions until their completion and shares quarterly updates with IRCC to support overall program monitoring and evaluation. The project has provided evidence-based feedback to enable UNHCR and IRCC to better understand the functioning of the Urgent Protection Program.

Pabi, 24 years old, is one of the thousands of refugees from Bhutan identified by UNHCR and resettled to Canada. “I am so proud of what I have been able to accomplish for myself since coming to Canada. What I like most about my jobs is that I can interact with people.” (c) UNHCR/ J. Park/2015

UNHCR Canada has also been increasingly interested in understanding integration outcomes for resettled refugees. UNHCR is a member of the National Settlement Council. It is also a supporting partner for the IRCC funded “Path to Home: Supporting Housing Needs for Newcomers Project”. The project seeks to develop and test new and sustainable approaches to providing increased housing support for recent immigrants and refugees who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and encourage stronger partnerships and collaboration between local housing, service providers and community-based agencies. UNHCR’s interest stems from the reality that finding appropriate housing is continually cited as one of the greatest challenges facing resettled refugees in most resettlement countries. Through this collaboration with the YMCA Greater Toronto who oversees the project and the three partner agencies in Edmonton, Toronto and Fredericton, UNHCR hopes to be able to support innovation and identify potential recommendations for future program development including outside of Canada.