US Leadership on refugee relief will be missed: Calgary Catholic Immigration Society
Many Syrian refugees who landed in Calgary have started their own businesses already. Pictured clockwise from top left are Mery Makhoul and Antoine Rayan owners of Aleppo's Kitchen, Omar Lababidi who started his own clothing line Fancy Label, Rita Khanchat, owner of Syrian Cuisine Made With Love and Wafaa of Wafaa's Alterations.
The Trump administration’s plans to limit immigration and refugees could be a boon for Canada but also dangerous for those fleeing war-torn countries, according to Calgary experts.
On Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order slashing the number of refugees the country will accept from 110,000 annually to 50,000, and temporarily limiting immigration from some predominantly Muslim countries.
Fariborz Birjandian, CEO of the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society, said it’s too soon to say what effect his executive order could have in the long run, but he is expecting a different environment over the next four years.
“The US actually does a big bulk of the international work on refugees – it would be very sad to see the US really doesn’t want to do what they have been doing for many years,” he said.
Birjandian noted refugees and immigrants are in two very different categories. While the first are fleeing dangerous situations in a hurry, countries compete to attract the smartest and most talented immigrants.
“The United States is usually the first destination of choice for immigrants,” said Birjandian. “It’s a huge economic benefit.’
He said it’s possible Canada could benefit by attracting more highly skilled workers if the US somehow reduced the number of immigrants it was accepting.
Saima Jamal, co founder of the Syrian Refugees Support Group in Calgary, noted that refugees also end up contributing greatly once they have some help getting on their feet.
“Whoever comes as refugees – the first two or three years we have to look after them, but after that they are a huge help,” she said. “Once you have given them the tools, holy moly, are they ready to make a home, make a success.”
She has grave concerns about the limits the US is putting on immigration from certain countries. Currently the limits are only for 30 days until the US can re-examine its vetting process.
“We need to be cognizant that this might be happen to people that have already asked for refugee status – there could be a huge influx of refugees (at our border),” she said.