The Canada Project

The numbers are modest. After the United States resettlement deal it is likely there will be 250 refugees in Papua New Guinea and on Nauru, still unsettled and held in stasis.

These are the people left behind. They are the last victims of an unbelievably cruel system, forgotten because our government has moved on and there is no longer political capital in their mistreatment.

Often it feels as if there is nothing that can be done. In this case, however, there is.

A little-known part of Canada’s immigration system allows for refugees to be sponsored for resettlement. For about $20,000, a person can be considered as part of a special intake.

There is a quota each year, which is about to be refreshed. Some 200 places are expected to be available in 2020.

So, as the year comes to an end, The Saturday Paper is raising money to ensure the people held by Australia in offshore detention are included in this sponsorship process.

Anyone can make a donation to support the resettlement in Canada of the people trapped in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, through the Refugee Council of Australia. The council is working with Canadian sponsorship groups, including the Canada Caring Society and the Vancouver-based refugee service MOSAIC. Those stranded in PNG and Nauru could easily fill the quota, but to do so we would need to raise $4 million.

This plan is not speculative – it is happening now, and places for private sponsorship are available. The funds raised cover a refugee’s living costs in their first year of settlement in Canada, and each new arrival is supported by a team of volunteers in the community in which they are resettled.

Any additional funds not able to be used for sponsored resettlement will be directed by the Refugee Council of Australia to fund projects that assist refugees and asylum seekers affected by the Australian government’s offshore-processing policy.

One day, an Australian prime minister will stand in parliament and apologise to the people damaged by our offshore detention regime. They will apologise to those whose lives were ended, to children whose childhoods were stolen. They will apologise for trauma and abuse on a scale that seems unimaginable. They will apologise for barbarism done by our government and in our name. None of us will be able to say we didn’t know.

The priority now is to end the suffering for the people still in stasis, to find places for those trapped in this system. We are calling this The Canada Project.

Donations can be made at the Refugee Council of Australia’s website: www.refugeecouncil.org.au/canada

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on December 21, 2019 as "The Canada Project".

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