Two young refugees from Afghanistan play in a Serbian refugee centre.
Two girls from Afghanistan colour in a refugee centre in Serbia. ACT Alliance provides support for refugees and migrant families here and in other places along their journey.
Credit: Paul Jeffrey / ACT Alliance
Published On: January 11, 2023

2022 was an interesting year for The United Church of Canada’s Refugee desk. Among numerous changes in policies, the Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAH) revalidation exercise, the arrivals after the pandemic, and the huge Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada backlog, the Refugee desk—with the help of the Refugee Advisory Group and hundreds of volunteers from many communities of faith across the country—submitted applications to sponsor 171 refugees from overseas. Of the 171, 12 are Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR), 6 are LGBTIQ2+, 9 are stateless, and 53 Afghani, with 30 through the Operation Afghan Safety (OAS) program.

2022 also saw the arrival of only 289 United Church sponsored refugees: 8 LGBTIQ2+, 12 BVOR, 22 stateless persons, 62 Afghani, 52 Eritreans, and the rest from other refugee populations. Refugees were sponsored by communities of faith across the country, including Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Toronto, and Ottawa. The process of welcoming sponsored refugees has changed, with a few extra steps added because of the pandemic. Many refugees who were supposed to arrive in 2020 and 2021 are still yet to arrive because their medicals expired. Overseas visa offices, UNHCR implementing agencies, and other players must coordinate with the host government to get the refugees vaccinated and/or tested for COVID before travel.

We do not know how many allocations we will receive for 2023, but we will most likely receive this information by mid-year. We therefore encourage communities of faith who want to continue to be involved in the refugee program to consider sponsoring LGBTIQ2+, BVOR (including LGBTIQ2+), and Joint Assistance Sponsorship (JAS) cases, as there is no limitation on how many can be sponsored under these categories.

To see a list of BVOR cases ready for sponsorship please visit the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program website and contact the Refugee desk for more information about the cases you are interested in welcoming to your community.

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