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"The combination of multiple conflicts and resulting mass displacement, fresh challenges to asylum, the funding gap between humanitarian needs and resources, and growing xenophobia is very dangerous. The road ahead is a challenging one, but I hope that - working with governments, civil society, and other partners - we will make progress in ensuring international protection and improved living conditions for millions of refugees, internally displaced and stateless people."
- Filippo Grandi
, UN High Commissioner for Refugees
In This Issue
The AURA Newsletter
Spring 2016 

Welcome to AURA's 2006 Spring newsletter.  All of us at AURA thank you for your continued support of our mission of assisting some of the most needy refugees in the world. It is because of people like you that we are able to run life changing programs that allow for the sponsorship and resettlement of refugees.

Around AURA
AURA Refugee Sponsorship Update:
We hope the following information helps clarify the seemingly always changing current refugee sponsorship environment.

  • November 9, 2015 the newly elected Canadian government officially began work on welcoming 25,000 Syrian Refugees.
  • January 12, 2016 saw Canada welcome its 10,000th Syrian refugee and February 27, 2016 marked the 25,000th Syrian refugee arrival.
  • March 2, 2016 AURA received the annual expression of interest which is used to determine AURA's allocation (number of named cases we can process), marked the end of Syrian named applications being exempt from allocations and announced that any Syrian named applications already submitted would count in allocations.
  • March 30, 2016 at 6pm the Minister of Immigration reversed the March 2nd announcement that already submitted Syrian named cases would count in allocations. This opened a less than 24 hour window to submit a Syrian named case.
    • This announcement did not affect Blended Visa Office Referred (BVOR) applications or groups waiting to be matched with a refugee family.
The vast majority of AURA's refugee sponsors have expressed interest in proceeding with BVOR cases. The current BVOR situation is as follows:
  • The number of BVORs available in 2016 has been increased over last year. But the demand for these cases has increased exponentially across the country.
  • BVOR profiles will regularly be made available until July for 2016 arrivals. The program will resume in November for arrivals in 2017.
  • With approximately 100 Sponsorship Agreement Holders requesting these BVOR cases, AURA expects to be awarded a very limited number of cases per month.
  • At this new rate, refugee sponsor groups will need to adjust expectations in terms of time lines and plans to welcome a family.
AURA, like the rest of the refugee sponsorship community, did not anticipate the development of the current sponsorship environment. AURA recognizes how challenging this process is and we want to continue to support your efforts. AURA is working with the heads of all active groups to develop successful plans going forward.

As of now, AURA has been in direct contact with the vast majority of refugee sponsors who have been affected by these changes. It is heartening to see the dedication and perseverance of so many groups willing to press on!

Phase One advocacy for increasing BVOR cases available

In order to help more of our refugee sponsors connect with appropiate refugee families we are asking you to get involved directly. 

As we all know, tens of thousands of people have spent countless hours raising millions of dollars and doing everything possible preparing to welcome refugees across Canada. We believe that the first step in showing the Government that the capacity to help remains strong is for refugee sponsors.

By further increasing the number of Blended Visa Office Referred (BVOR) cases available and reinstituting Visa Office Referred (VOR) cases, more refugee families can be matched with ready sponsor groups quickly and safely. 

This is a time when we can show the world Canada's capacity for compassion and caring. The people are ready. The money is set aside. The need for help is extreme. This is an opportunity to create a lasting legacy for all Canadians, and a safe future for more of our world's refugees.

You will find below letter templates for writing to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, as well as your local MP. Simply download the templates, personalize the letters and mail them off to show your readiness to help refugees in need! :
Write to the Prime Minister

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already accomplished a lot during his brief time in office. He has already shown a willingness to actually listen to Canadians. Tell him you are ready to help more refugees.

Write to the Minister John McCallum
You can choose to write to the head of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). This department is responsible for all refugee policies. Let the Minister know that more BVOR's will allow you to help refugees in need right now!

Write to your MP

Who better to advocate for you locally other than your local MP? Let your MP know that you can make a difference in the lives of refugees right now.

The template letter is filled in for AURA's local MP. To find your local MP please use this link. 

Even if you and your group has already secured a refugee family for sponsorship, we ask you to still write to the government to help show the just how many people are involved!

Ian McBride (right), executive director of AURA, speaks at a refugee planning meeting in Stroud. Photo by Michael Hudson
AURA in the News
Ian McBride, AURA's executive director, was asked by the CBC about refugee sponsorship challenges faced by the government:

"The number of groups that want a family to arrive in the relatively near term is enormous and it's bigger than any government, this one or the last one, anticipated would happen.  I don't think there's an easy solution," he added. "But I do think that the only way to potentially deal with it is through a considerable amount of open conversation between all parties."


The most recent edition of Insight, the United Church Toronto Conference's Newsletter, featured a story about how AURA continues to support churches in the conference who are engaged in refugee sponsorship.

Refugee News
Two children drown every day on average trying to reach safety in Europe: 
Greek volunteers help a young child having crossed the Aegean Sea from Turkey. (Photo: UNHCR/A. Zavallis)

In a joint statement, issued in Geneva, UNHCR, UNICEF and the IOM warned that the number of child deaths was on the increase and called for more measures to increase safety for those escaping conflict and despair.

Since last September, when the tragic death of toddler Aylan Kurdi captured the world's attention, more than 340 children, many of them babies and toddlers, have drowned in the eastern Mediterranean. The total number of children who have died may be even greater, the sister organisations said, with their bodies lost at sea and never recovered.

One of those statistics was seven-year-old Houda from Afghanistan who went missing in a shipwreck off the Greek island of Kos at the end of January. Her mother, father, two sisters and one of her brothers had left Kabul for Istanbul earlier that month after her father, a middle-ranking police officer, received death threats.

Sponsors of Syrian refugees are left in limbo: 
Rachael Tabor, left, and Deborah Woolway, waiting to help a Syrian Refugee family they sponsored. (Photo: Darren Calabrese)

By now, it's a familiar Canadian story. Horrified by a humanitarian crisis on the other side of the world, a stranger feels compelled to sponsor a family of Syrian refugees. Over a cup of coffee, she asks some friends what they think of her idea. Within days, a group is formed and funds start pouring in. "I put out a few feelers, and bingo, we were away," says Deborah Woolway, a property manager who lives in Dartmouth, N.S. "I just felt my neighbourhood would really respond to this."

Canada's sponsorship of refugees a model for the world: 
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi holds a press conference in Ottawa. (Photo: The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)

Canada's use of both government and private sponsors to help Syrian refugees resettle is a model that should be exported around the world, the head of the United Nations refugee agency. 

Canada was the first of what's still only a handful of states which allow private groups to take on the costs and obligations associated with refugee resettlement and it's an approach that ought to be tried elsewhere as the flow of displaced people from the Syrian civil war and other conflicts continues, Filippo Grandi said.  "It adds more places for resettlement, but it also contributes to create this sense in civil society that it is a positive thing to do," Grandi said of the private sponsorship program in an interview with The Canadian Press.

More about getting involved with refugee sponsorship:  
Many Canadians continue to turn to refugee sponsorship as a way to help Syrian and other refugees. AURA offers many ways in which you can be part of the solution, there  are many ways for you to get directly involved today:
Constituent Group Spotlight
Parishes receive matching grants for refugee sponsorship:

As much as $392,000 in grants will be distributed to parishes across all four episcopal areas to support refugee sponsorship in the Diocese of Toronto. These grants, approved by Diocesan Council at its March 31 meeting, are provided through a $500,000 tithe from the Ministry Allocation Fund earmarked for refugee work. They will help to offset costs associated with private sponsorship of refugees.

Read the full story by Ryan Weston at: Diocese of Toronto Website
Renewed partnership between United Church Toronto Conference and AURA:
With recent increased awareness of and interest in refugee sponsorship, it was important to review this partnership to ensure that the needs of Toronto Conference churches interested in refugee sponsorship were being fully met. For this reason a new Memorandum of Understanding was developed between AURA and the General Council Office.  The renewed partnership outlines the areas of responsibility as follows.

AURA will:
  • Continue to offer its comprehensive Training Programs to United Church of Canada Constituent Groups. These programs include:
    • Sponsorship Information for Churches
    • Named Case Advice 
    • Settlement Training;
  • Maintain its easy access website as a resource:;
  • Act in support of arrival announcements 
  • Upon request assist in the making of and the participation in Refugee Assistance Program (RAP) appointments;
  • Continue to respond to United Churches with general inquiries related to sponsorships.
  Staff of the General Council Office will:
  • Assist Constituent Groups (CG) in the completion of necessary sponsorship applications and process all United Church CG applications;
  • Maintain all United Church case files and applications;
  • Forward NAT announcements to AURA;
  • Ensure regular consultation with AURA for effective co-ordination and communication of the program.
To read the full letter  please click on this link.

Refugee Voices: Stories of Struggle and Success:

Do you wonder what comes next after refugees arrive in Canada? East End Refugee Committee (EERC) is having an event where you can hear the stories of challenge and triumph of new Canadians who have arrived here in the last two decades.

When: Monday May 16th at 7:00pm
Where: Kingston Road United Church, 975 Kingston Rd. 

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Volunteer Corner
Volunteering with AURA
AURA relies on the skills, time, and heart of our volunteers to support our mission
to help refugees.
Without the generous contributions by our volunteers, we would not be able to help as many refugees.

To learn more about volunteering at AURA, please  click here.