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Refugee crisis spurs public response in B.C.

September 4, 2015

By Kevin Griffin, Vancouver Sun

The refugee crisis in Syria has prompted an overwhelming response from people wanting to know what they can do to help, an immigrant and refugee activist said Friday.

Chris Friesen, director of settlement services for Immigrant Services Society of B.C., said dramatic photographs of refugees fleeing Syria has “generated significant public interest.

“People want to take action,” he said. “They want to feel they’re contributing to helping the situation.”

He said ISS in Vancouver is getting emails and phone calls from people interested in finding out how they can sponsor refugees and asking if they can volunteer to help with ISS.

He said the response reminds him of 1999 when thousands of refugees were fleeing Kosovo during the war with what remained of the former Yugoslavia.

He said the public is also frustrated and angry that Canada hasn’t “done enough” to help Syrians fleeing civil strife in the country.

Friesen said in the period between Jan. 1, 2013 and Aug. 31, 2015, B.C. received 72 government-sponsored refugees from Syria.

This year, the target for all Canadian government-sponsored refugees from around the world is about 6,900; in 1980, Canada received 19,233 government-assisted refugees from around the world, Friesen said.

Refugees are classified into three groups: there are refugees sponsored by the federal government, refugees sponsored by groups of private individuals and religious, humanitarian and social organizations, and refugees described as asylum seekers who come to Canada on their own and make refugee claims.

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