Advocates urge Ottawa to remove quota on Afghan refugee sponsorship program

TORONTO — A group of advocates is urging the federal government to remove the limit on applications to sponsor certain Afghan refugees in Canada – or at least stop counting rejected applications towards it.

The government introduced a new program last month to allow Canadian individuals and organizations to privately sponsor up to 3,000 Afghan refugees who don't have refugee status from the United Nations refugee agency or a foreign state.

Stephen Watt, co-founder of Northern Lights Canada, a non-profit that’s been helping Afghan refugees in Toronto, says the program's application system crashed shortly after the government opened it at midnight on Oct. 17 due to many people rushing to submit applications to sponsor Afghan refugees.

He says many of the submitted applications will likely end up rejected on a technicality because the government said it will accept the first 3,000 applicants and thus sponsors had to raise funds and write their sponsorship applications quickly.

Immigration department spokeswoman Isabelle Dubois confirmed in a statement the government will count all complete applications towards the 3,000 limit, and said it is currently reviewing the received applications to determine whether it reached the goal of applications for 3,000 Afghans.

Ottawa has committed to resettling a total of 40,000 Afghan refugees after the Taliban took over Afghanistan last year, with nearly 23,000 arrived now in Canada.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 28, 2022.

The Canadian Press