The GeoPolitics of Private Refugee Sponsorship and the Duties of Citizens
Event Description: Professor Jennifer Hyndman, Director of the Centre for Refugee Studies at York University, presented her research into the motivations of more than 500 Canadian sponsors who participated in the Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) program. The second part of the discussion examined whether the limits imposed on prospective newcomers from specific refugee-affected regions reveals a highly geopolitical and racialized set of government preferences.
Host: The UBC Migration Research Cluster
Immigration is quickly becoming a priority policy issue for Canadian cities facing the challenge of settling immigrants, resettled refugees, and irregular migrants from countries around the world. In Canada, a reported 300 communities accepted more than 50,000 Syrian refugees in the past few years. In the next few years, Canada plans to accept four times the number of privately sponsored refugees (PSR) resettled annually in the past decade, approaching levels not seen since the arrival of Vietnamese refugees.
VSIR Thinking Points:
- Cities may be legally and constitutionally subordinate to the nation-state, but they play a global leadership role in managing a complex array of policy issues, including those not traditionally defined as “urban.” Unfortunately, the urban refugee phenomenon is largely overlooked in global policy initiatives such as the Global Compact on Migration, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (#11), and the New Urban Agenda. Think tanks, scholars, journalists, and independent knowledge brokers have a vital role to play in making these policy linkages more explicit.
- Transitioning from “newcomer” status to integrated citizenship is a shared responsibility involving hundreds of service providers and community associations. Scaling up the social infrastructure – education facilities, community centres, sports fields – is paramount given the large youth demographic of global refugee populations. When properly resourced, the social infrastructure can become an enduring source of urban soft-power advantage in Canada.
- Holistic investments in social capital, local economic linkages, and co-operative institutions are key to fostering human agency and to mitigating the risk of a populist backlash that is undermining democratic institutions in parts of Europe and the United States. If global projections of climate-induced migration movements are even remotely accurate, Canada’s experience and knowledge of resettling refugees from countries around the world (eg., Vietnam, Kosovo, and Syria), may prove to be a vital source of resilience in the not-too-distant future.
Canada is raising its immigration and refugee resettlement targets while much of the world seems intent on placing formidable barriers in the path of newcomers and pulling itself apart over disputes around “illegal” migration. Academics, think-tanks, and immigration practitioners working collaboratively can help to illuminate global migration patterns by making effective use of data visualization software. Likewise, the Canadian research community can improve its own understanding of human mobility drivers by prioritizing structured analytical techniques such as social network analysis. Finally, political tensions in Canada can be de-escalated by promoting research and journalistic reporting on immigrant entrepreneurship.