Syrian Refugee Information

Durham residents are responding to the Syrian refugee crisis in unprecedented numbers. Neighbourhoods, faith groups and individuals are coming together and asking "how can we help?" We are expecting the first refugee families who arrive to be privately sponsored refugees, but we can all participate in welcoming them.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Get the facts!
    Learn more about the refugee process and the current crisis in Syria, or
  2. Privately Sponsor a refugee, or
  3. Get in touch with local groups to find out how you can contribute.

Refugees: the facts

Each year, millions of people are forced to flee their homes to escape persecution, war or severe human rights abuses. Often these people can never return home.

According to the UN, there are almost 60 million people globally who are forcibly displaced. This is the highest number in decades. The majority are displaced because of conflicts in their home countries / regions.

Is there a difference between a refugee, an economic migrant and an asylum seeker? YES! For more information, visit the UNHCR website.

Over 50% of the Syrian population is currently displaced and are seeking asylum elsewhere (an estimated 11 million people). Many are internally displaced but as the civil war and incursions by ISIS increase, there are fewer safe places for people to live within Syria. For additional background to the Syrian crisis, visit the Lifeline Syria website.

Who are the Syrian refugees? The federal government has produced a very useful population profile to assist communities in welcoming Syrians locally, Population Profile: Syrian Refugees (PDF).

What kinds of support do refugees receive when they come to Canada? Government assisted refugees (sometimes called GARs) receive assistance from the federal government for the first year that they are in Canada. This assistance is equivalent to the level of social assistance provided in the province in which the refugees live. Refugees, like other newcomers to Canada, are also eligible to receive settlement services like community orientation, language assessments, language classes, job-seeking help and short-term/crisis counselling. For more information, visit the CIC Website.

Privately Sponsor a Refugee

Privately Sponsored Refugees are supported by the local groups who are sponsoring them. The sponsorship group is responsible for welcoming the refugee family at the airport, providing housing, clothing, furniture, financial assistance and emotional and social supports for one full year. This is a contractual agreement with the federal government. The sponsoring group must be screened, must prove that they have sufficient resources to support the individual refugee or family and must also provide a detailed settlement plan for how they will assist the refugee family settle and integrate into their new community.

The Refugee Sponsorship Training Program is the resource for anyone interested in private sponsorship. The Refugee Sponsorship Training Program (RSTP) is a program designed to support the Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAHs) of Canada and their Constituent groups.

It is important to remember, that all refugees are eligible for settlement services. It is critically important that the sponsorship group get in touch with local settlement supports to ensure that the families and sponsors are getting the best help they can get as they settle. For more information, contact the Welcome Centre Immigrant Services.

For more information on the federal Privately Sponsored Refugee program, as well as how this differs from the program for government assisted refugees, visit the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website.

Other ways to help

There are a number of groups across Durham Region who are organizing locally to bring refugee families to Durham. Many have submitted their paperwork and are waiting for families to arrive in the next few months. Other groups are at different phases in the process. All of the local private sponsorship groups (PDF) listed here are open to hearing from you.

The Durham Welcome Centres are the lead agencies in providing settlement supports to refugees and other newcomers to Durham Region. If you have any additional questions about how else you can help or get involved, visit their website or email

If you are a sponsor and would like information on settlement services, contact Community Development Council Durham (CDCD) at 905-686-2661 (Toll Free: 1-866-746-3696, Fax: 905-686-4157), or by e-mail:

If you would like to donate goods, time or money to the refugee crisis, contact Community Development Council Durham (CDCD) at 905-686-2661 (Toll Free: 1-866-746-3696, Fax: 905-686-4157), or by e-mail:

Local Resources

Durham Immigration Portal logo Durham Immigration Portal: For information on the full suite of settlement services available in Durham Region, please visit the Durham Immigration Portal at This is a useful website to share with your families before they arrive as it will give them information on what to expect when they get to Durham. Information on the site is aimed at newcomers, people who are planning to come to Durham and those who are supporting them or provide services to newcomers. The website can be translated using the Google translate button at the top of the page.

Welcome Centres: one of the best sources of support to the refugee families coming to Durham Region will be the staff at the Welcome Centres and through the SWIS program. The professional settlement staff at the Welcome Centres speak dozens of languages (literally!) and are funded by both the federal and provincial governments to provide information, training and resource to newcomers. For more information, visit

Links to resources:

Listing of Private Sponsorship Groups in Durham
This is a listing of community groups who are privately sponsoring refugees to Durham.

Resource List for Private Refugee Sponsorship
A list of resources and links for people who may be interested in learning more about privately sponsoring a refugee family.

Welcome Centres in Durham
One of the best sources of support to the refugee families coming to Durham Region will be the staff at the Welcome Centres and through the SWIS program.

Durham Community Legal Clinic
The Durham Community Legal Clinic provides services to refugees.

Refugee Sponsorship Training Program
The Refugee Sponsorship Training Program (RSTP) is a program designed to support the Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAHs) of Canada, their Constituent Groups, Groups of Five and Community Sponsors on a national level (excl. Quebec).

Specialized Refugee Medical Appointments
Beginning on October 26th there will be weekly clinics in the Toronto area to serve Syrian refugees. The clinics will be at a different location each week, and will be staffed by clinicians with an expertise in refugee health issues.

Ethnocultural Listing (PDF)
A listing of local Durham ethnocultural groups.

Government and NGO Links

#Welcome Refugees
New federal government resource for Canadians.

Population Profile: Syrian Refugees
CIC produced profile of the Syrian population.

Ontario Government: Syrian Refugees
A new provincial government website for those interested in assisting in refugee resettlement.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
The UNHCR website is an invaluable resource for learning more about the global refugee crisis.

Lifeline Syria
Lifeline Syria is a coalition of community groups, agencies and organizations who have come together to educate and coordinate private sponsorship arrangements for Syrian refugees.

Envisioning Global LGBT Human Rights
Information and resources on what is involved in making a refugee protection claim in Canada geared specifically toward LGBTI individuals

Rainbow Refugee Committee

Refugees: A new resource from the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)
Features information, resources, statistics, news and links about refugee programs, policy and trends in Canada.

Refugees from Syria Backgrounder
Published by the American Cultural Orientation Resource Center this report provides additional background information on the Syrian crisis. November 2014 publication date.

ON Employment Supports (English)
ON Employment Supports (Arabic)
To help you find a job, write a résumé, improve your interview techniques and upgrade your skills, Employment Ontario is here for you. Learn more about how they can help you by visiting Employment Ontario online at

Syrian Refugee Health Care Options in Ontario
The Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has produced this excellent summary of resources and links to healthcare options in Ontario.

If you know of another initiative that would benefit from being on this list and sharing information, or if you would like to receive regular e-mail updates, please e-mail the Diversity and Immigration Program at the Region of Durham at