Spaces available in our IELTS Evening classes Register now!

Refugee FAQ

Q-How can I help refugees?

A- ISSofBC will graciously accept donations and provide tax receipts to support refugee and immigrant programming. More information on how to donate can be found on our Donate webpage.

Q-What is a government assisted refugee and how much money do they receive?

A- A Government Assisted Refugee is a Convention Refugee selected from abroad by the Government of Canada for resettlement. GARs hold permanent resident (PR) status upon arrival and receive financial and other support from the Government of Canada for up to one year.

Government Assisted Refugees (GARs), upon their arrival to British Columbia, receive Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP) income benefits under national humanitarian objectives that follow the same rates as provincial income support rates for up to one year or until an individual is able to sustain him or herself, whichever comes first. RAP benefits include monthly contributions towards shelter, transportation and food. In addition, Citizen and Immigration Canada provides a one time start up allowance for such things as clothing, telephone installation, toiletries and other household staples.

View the full report on GAR statistics in Metro Vancouver.

Q-How can I sponsor a refugee?

A- The Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program helps thousands of refugees every year. You or your group can sponsor refugees from abroad who qualify to come to Canada. As a sponsor, you provide financial and emotional support for the refugees for the duration of the sponsorship. This includes help for housing, clothing and food. Most sponsorships last for one year, but some refugees may be eligible for assistance from their sponsors for up to three years.

Refugees must qualify for entry under Canada’s laws and must pass medical and security checks before they can come to Canada.

For general information about sponsoring a refugee see the CIC Help Centre

For information on how you can get involved and become a sponsor or for questions regarding the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program, the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program (RSTP) can help.

Q-How much does it cost to sponsor a refugee?

A- Although the cost of living varies from centre to centre across the country, the rule of thumb is sponsors are expected to provide a level of support at least equal to that of the prevailing rates for social assistance in the expected community of settlement. In BC, annual social assistance rates would be $10,524 for a couple, and $13,212 for a family of four.

Refugees are usually given a loan from the Government of Canada to pay for their medical examinations overseas and their transportation to Canada. In cases where the visa office has concerns about a refugee’s ability to repay a loan, the sponsoring group may be asked to pay a portion of, or all these costs. Examples may be sponsorships for elderly persons who are unlikely to enter the labour market or sponsorships of unaccompanied minor children.

Q-What is the government transportation loan about?

A- All government assisted and privately sponsored refugees receive an interest bearing transportation loan by the Government of Canada to cover their flights to Canada as well as their overseas medical examinations. These loans can be up to $10,000 or more dependent on the family size and age of children. This must start making loan payments within first year in Canada. Ninety-one percent (91%) of refugees repay the loan in full according to CIC.

Q-Where do most refugees live after arriving in BC?

A- Because Government Assisted Refugees arrive in Canada as permanent residents, they are free to settle anywhere in the country regardless of where they were destined. Vancouver is one of 36 communities across Canada where GARs are resettled to. Although GARs to B.C. originally land in Vancouver, approximately 70 percent settle in three Metro Vancouver cities: Surrey, Coquitlam and Burnaby.

ISSofBC’s 2014 report Refugee Newcomers in Metro Vancouver’ provides more detailed information, including GIS maps of settlement patterns in the top five cities.

Q-How many Government Assisted Refugees come to BC annually and from which countries?

A- Each year BC welcomes approximately 650 to 800 Government Assisted Refugees from a variety of countries. However in the last year, Canada embarked on the largest resettlement movement of our generation by accepting over 30,00 Syrian refugees. Since then, over 2000 Syrian GARs have made BC their new home.

ISSofBC publishes a quarterly GAR Bulletin providing up-to-date statistics on GAR numbers, source countries and settlement patterns.

Q-What is a refugee?

A- The Geneva Convention definition of a refugee is a person who “owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country” Source: “Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees”, Office of UNHCR, August 2007.

For more information, read our article Refugees: The Big Picture.