According to the United Nations, there are 25.4 million refugees around the world, with 1.2 million in urgent need of resettlement.
In other words, these 1.2 million people have not been afforded adequate rights, protections or specialized health services in their countries of asylum, so they require resettlement in a third country like Canada.
Historically, global resettlement efforts were insufficient to meet this growing need. Only 102,800 refugees were resettled around the world in 2017; Canada aimed to welcome 27,000 in 2018.
With such a limited number of resettlement spaces available, we must take full advantage of every opportunity to reach out and help refugees.
Five years ago, the Canadian government introduced a new type of refugee sponsorship, called Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) program.
It presents an amazing opportunity for sponsorship with several benefits.
BVOR sponsorships require less paperwork than regular private sponsorships, cost less and have much shorter processing times, with the people often arriving within one to four months. Perhaps the most notable benefit is that unlike private sponsorships, the government does not place a limit on how many BVOR sponsorships the diocese can undertake each year.
The acronym BVOR has two components: “blended” and “Visa office-referred”.
BVOR cases blend aspects of private and government sponsorship through a unique cost-sharing model.
In the first year of resettlement, six months of income support is provided by the government, and the other six months by private sponsors.
Sponsors are responsible for providing emotional, financial and social support during this first year. They are “Visa office-referred” because refugees have already been identified and screened by the United Nations and Canadian Visa offices abroad, who have deemed the refugees eligible and ready for resettlement.
BVOR refugees are some of the most vulnerable people living in the world today. Many have been victims of war, violence, torture, sexual assault or persecution.
For example, one BVOR refugee is a single Somali man who cannot return to his home country for fear of violence due to his sexual orientation. He has an informal grade seven education and some English language skills. As a survivor of violence, he would benefit from resettlement to Canada where he can receive counselling and the support of sponsors.
Another BVOR case involves a 42-year-old Eritrean woman and her 11-year-old child. She has nine years of education, including training in emergency injury treatment. Her work experience includes cleaning, housekeeping and store ownership. She is a survivor of gender-based violence.
For these individuals, resettlement in a country like Canada is their only chance at a life with some semblance of normalcy and stability.
These two cases are examples of BVOR profiles that can be requested from Canada’s Refugee Sponsorship Training Program for the consideration of potential sponsors.
Despite all the benefits to BVOR sponsorship, the program is severely lacking in sponsors.
Through the BVOR program, Christians have the rare chance to actually do something tangible about the global refugee crisis we often see on the evening news. Rather than feel powerless in the face of evil, we can help others.
Through BVOR sponsorship, we can respond to God’s call that we welcome the stranger, reaching out with the care and compassion of Christ.
To learn more about the BVOR program or to become a sponsor, contact the Reverend Scott McLeod below.