Chad Rickaby, Blog Writer

The situation in Syria continues to deteriorate rapidly. Antonio Guiterres, the second term High Commissioner, has stated that the situation in Syria is the worst humanitarian crisis since the Rwandan genocide. The resulting refugee crisis is a tragic humanitarian disaster that should be considered of direct concern to the global community. Calls by the Commissioner, “to keep borders open and receive all Syrians who seek protection,” need to be recognized by the global community, including Canada.

While the Canadian government has committed to do its part in taking on Syrian refugees, offering to resettling 10,000 Syrians in the next three years, the massive influx of refugees across the Mediterranean is a major issue that still needs to be addressed. Reports of pushback and refoulement at borders by many countries in Southern Europe are alarming. In order to reach the UNHCR goal of 100,000 Syrian admissions to the EU, it is vital that member states work in solidarity. This is not a problem we can leave to the countries bordering Southern Europe, and in particular the Mediterranean, to handle on their own. Canada, as a country blessed with low population density and the resources and institutions to handle these people in need, is in a position to take on a greater number of refugees. Working with the EU provides a chance for Canada to take a global leadership role that it has lacked in recent years. This can be done either through taking on refugees from countries that are being overwhelmed, or by helping countries develop the model of private sponsorship that Canada and Germany currently lead the world in utilizing.

The Dublin II regulations, which sets criteria for identifying which state is responsible for processing asylum seekers, must be followed by all member states. If the identified nation is deemed to be unfit to resettle the asylum seeker, especially relevant due to the recent domestic issues of many Mediterranean states, the effort must be made to find different resettlement options. This will minimize the large number of refoulement cases we are currently observing. Canada should use their stable conditions and low population density in these incidences to help take on refugees that are currently overflowing the Mediterranean coast and further stressing vulnerable European nation states.

Of the nineteen EU member states that currently have resettlement programs, only ten countries have actually resettled any Syrian refugees. Canada should firmly urge other EU member states to develop their resettlement programs, which will be needed if the EU has any chance of reaching the admissions goal of 100,000 Syrians. In cases where it is not viable for a country to resettle asylum seekers, as is often the case for nations on the Mediterranean coast, Canadian leadership should be ready to increase their own admissions. This offers Canada a great opportunity to embrace a global leadership role and become more actively involved in mitigating this humanitarian crisis.