Dec22TueDecember 22, 2015
Twenty-five years ago my husband and I were living 20 kilometers from Vienna in a small town called Traiskirchen. The town is well known for its wine and heurigers. The city is also known nationwide and internationally for its refugee camp the "Bundesbetreuungsstelle für Asylwerber."
It is the refugee camp that drew us to Traiskirchen. Here we met and assisted incredible people from Eastern Europe, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Syria as they awaited papers and word of a new home.
One young man we met was Abraham. He was 19 years of age and had grown up in Syria.
Abraham along with the other thousands of refugees that were housed in Traiskirchen, lived in cramped housing. My husband and I welcomed Abraham into our home, and he became part of the family. We were thrilled to hear of a church community that we knew well that would sponsor him to come to Canada. Abraham landed in Canada before we returned home. He welcomed us on our return. Abraham graduated from University and went on for further studies, earning a Ph.D. Over the course of the next twenty years, he would visit us off and on. Each time he would visit we would welcome him into our home and family life.
In 2009, Abraham settled back into the GTA, and once again temporarily lived in our home. He is gainfully employed and contributes in a huge way to innovative healing. He has since married and his wife recently gave birth to their first child – a Canadian! I couldn’t be a happier to be a surrogate grandmother.
I preface my blog with the story of Abraham for some may say that we have joined the throng of fear-mongers of terrorism. Nothing could be further from the truth. We too, along with our clients, “have been monitoring the crisis in the Middle East. We have been touched deeply by the stories of people impacted by ISIS in Syria, and then by the stories of those forced to flee the region by walking to Europe. Our hearts were broken like yours as we watched the boats crossing the seas towards Europe. “
We are eager to support the call globally to come to the aid of the Refugees. Our desire is to help create communities that are safe, providing Refugees and new Immigrants with the same opportunities that Abraham has been afforded.
As a specialty consulting and training organization, we are committed to providing you solutions to do just that. We are committed to reducing the risk of abuse and protect the most vulnerable among us.
The question has been asked, “Are refugees ‘vulnerable persons’?” The definition of a vulnerable person is, “a person who, because of his/her age, disability, or other circumstance, whether temporary or permanent, is in a position of dependence on others or is otherwise at a greater risk than the general population of being harmed by a person or persons in a position of authority or trust.” YES, refugees are vulnerable persons!
The UNHCR – UN Refugee Agency states, "Refugees fleeing war, terrorism or persecution, are often in a very vulnerable situation. Once they arrive on our doorstep, if we do not protect them, then they may be at a greater risk and condemning them to an intolerable situation where their basic rights, security, and in some cases their lives may be in danger.”
According to the government website, organizations that enter into a contractual agreement with the government are responsible for the sponsorship and placement of the refugees.
That responsibility includes but is not limited to:
If liability arises, there is a wide range of potential claimants including the refugees, the sponsors, the public, employees, and volunteers. We would recommend you check with your insurance company to inquire as to your qualification for coverage.
The issue as to who is ultimately responsible if liability occurs is not the primary issue I am concerned with or going to try to answer. My desire is to help raise awareness that Refugee Settlement and Sponsorship is an initiative that must fall under the umbrella of abuse prevention and protection. Abuse prevention and protection is why we are very involved in the discussion.
From our experience working with 7,500 organizations in North America, only a small percentage of them include “vulnerable adults” as part of their policies and procedures and even fewer working with refugees. Few of them screen and train those that work with vulnerable adults on abuse prevention and protection. The government has gone to great lengths to screen the refugees that are settling in the United States and Canada. It is not enough just to screen and access the key contact of a Constituent Group. We would recommend the same diligence in screening those that will be serving the refugees, including but not limited to those who are transporting, tutoring, caregiving, and providing temporary housing.
Refugee settlement is not a low-risk activity. It is an extremely high-risk activity. It is critically important to be aware of the need to adapt current strategies for abuse prevention to include Refugee Settlement. If you do not do this, we believe there will be a gap in demonstrating your duty of care to your volunteers and staff, and potentially to the Refugees that you are sponsoring. The great work that has been done to date within organizations towards abuse prevention and protection would result in a tremendous gap allowing for risk of abuse, harm, injury and liability.
In closing, I do not believe it is an accident or coincidence that the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Report came out at the same time as the influx of refugees arriving in North America. Residential abuse as unveiled in the Truth and Reconciliation Report should be a reminder to all of us to stay humble and take every needed precaution when extending social justice to the masses.
With twenty (20) years of experience, Plan to Protect® is positioned to protect refugees and new immigrants. We have solutions to respond swiftly and have sponsors to help subsidize the costs. Let’s plan to protect refugees and new immigrants.
On December 11th, we offered a free webinar addressing the need to consider the risks and liability organizations face with Refugee Sponsorship called, “Let’s Plan to Protect Refugees.” If you missed the webinar, CLICK HERE.
In partnership with North Park Community Church, we have developed a policy and procedure template that can be now be modified for Sponsorship Agreement Holders and Constituent Groups. If you are interested in purchasing this policy, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. The policy development and distribution costs have been partially subsidized.
Finally, we have launched our Plan to Protect® Orientation Training for Refugee and new Immigrant Protection. Again, in most cases your regular abuse prevention training does not cover the material that is needed to work with Refugees. We have significantly revised the content of the training for this context. This training will be available for Certified Trainers of Plan to Protect® as an on-line module, and it will be offered as LIVE webinars and as an on-line training option. Please let us know if you are interested in learning more about these training options.