Noura Tanbari, Bilal Tanbari, Alies WatersGovernment-assisted refugees Noura and Bilal Tanbari with their Windsor schoolmate Alies Waters.

Refugee sponsorship effort continues for campus group

A campus effort to sponsor a refugee family from Syria for resettlement in Canada has reached its initial fundraising target and submitted the sponsorship application. Now the real work begins, report organizers.

“With so much help from across the university community, we have raised more than the minimum required to bring a family here,” says professor Anneke Smit, part of the Group of Five sponsors based in Windsor Law. “This has been a campus-wide effort. Every faculty contributed, as well as individuals and groups.”

The group sought to bring a family with relatives already located in Windsor, and submitted sponsorship applications for members of the Tanbari family: grandparents, their orphaned grandson, and a young adult son. The four are in Lebanon, near the border with Syria. See a profile of the family by CBC correspondent Susan Ormiston.

Given the current backlog in processing, the group expects it will be at least a year before they arrive in Canada. In the meantime, members have been in contact with the family — those in Windsor as well as those in Lebanon. Individuals have been assisting with job search, reading to the children from English-language story books, and sending items to help the sponsored refugees cope with the hardships of wintering in Lebanon, far from home.

“That’s the extra you get with private sponsorship,” Dr. Smit says. “It’s not just about the money; it’s about the support.”

She notes that Canada is the only country to engage in private sponsorship on such a large scale, and says that her group’s efforts are ongoing.

“We are hoping to raise enough money to assist the family in repaying their government travel loan upon their arrival,” says Smit.

This project is just one of the ways law students and faculty have been advocating for refugees:

  • An entrance scholarship for a first-year law student who has been a refugee is funded jointly by Windsor Law, Windsor Women Working with Immigrant Women, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
  • A summer internship sends a Windsor Law student to work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees protection office in Toronto.
  • The faculty established the Windsor chapter of the national Refugee Sponsorship Support Program, which co-ordinates pro bono legal assistance by local lawyers and law students to help private sponsorship groups complete their applications.
  • Smit and colleagues Gemma Smyth and Jillian Rogin call for effective resettlement policies in an opinion piece published Monday in the Globe and Mail newspaper.

“We are all looking for ways to help,” Smit says. “If people feel like giving, this is a very tangible way to make a difference for some families in real need.”

Learn more about how to contribute to the refugee sponsorship fund on its website.

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