NL Refugee and Immigration Services Threatened by Funding Loss

Newfoundland & Labrador not­for­profit may soon close.

The Refugee and Immigrant Advisory Council (RIAC) [St. John’s, NL] announced to supporters on Tuesday that they may be forced to close their doors at the end of April due to a lack of funding.

RIAC

RIAC depends primarily on private donors in order to offer services to the province’s newcomers who else would be overlooked. The services they offer include language training, advising on the immigration process, and housing and legal assistance.

Jose Riverra, RIAC‘s Executive Director, explains that the budget shortfall has the potential to  leave many refugees without comparable services should the group – which has served over 3,500 people over the last five years – fold. Their programs are unique to the province in terms of scope and coverage.

To take the example of language training, he points out that while services exist for refugees who are government sponsored or are able to pay, lapses in coverage in those programs for various reasons leaves a substantial population vulnerable.

“You have to be a permanent resident, you have to be a government assisted refugee, you have to be a sponsored person, and you have to be on a waiting list,” he said. “Anybody outside of that, like the spouses of students, … older children of people who come and who don’t qualify for high school or they’re away from the age range for post secondary education and so on, they’re in a limbo situation where they’re too old for this and too young for that.”

“If you’re sponsored by a church, or a group, or an individual, or you’re sponsored by your spouse, you do not qualify for very many services so, where do you go?”

Riverra further says that even many government sponsored refugees have difficulties after the window of government services closes.

“We do not have access to services beyond what is called the Settlement and Integration Program,” he said. “It’s not a lack of services when you actually get here: it’s all there for you. The thing is that once you exhaust those services and you run into situations that you didn’t happen to run into last time, then you have nowhere to go.”

“The other component there is that if you’re a refugee claimant or a failed refugee claimant, then you’re in limbo because there’s no specific services designed for this type of people. People who are not permanent residents here, they don’t even have a visa or passport -you name it. You don’t have access to health much less, education. If you fall sick with any serious illness or, god forbid, you get pregnant, you’re going to run into a serious situation because you’re not covered under any kind of program. That group of people, very specifically requires humanitarian help.”

The group will need to raise between five and ten thousand dollars per month to maintain the services they offer and the staff that provide them. The ever generous prospective donors among you can get started by heading to RIAC’s website, RIAC.ca.

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