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John Tory part of group sponsoring Syrian family

Last Updated Sep 4, 2015 at 12:52 pm EDT

Toronto Mayor John Tory is part of a group that is sponsoring a Syrian family in the wake of a refugee crisis.

Tory is sponsoring the family through the non-profit group LifeLine Syria, a spokesperson for the mayor confirmed on Friday, and he is urging others to get involved.

“The crisis is in its fifth year and shows no sign of stopping,” Alexandra Kotyk, project manager at Lifeline Syria, told Breakfast Television on Friday.

There are four million refugees from the country and up to seven million displaced internally, she said.

The situation was thrust into the spotlight this week when a heartbreaking photo of a drowned young boy gained international attention. The haunting image of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, washed up on a Turkish beach, focused the world’s attention on the wave of migration fuelled by war and deprivation.

Tory had started the paperwork before the photo was released. Lifeline Syria recommends that anyone wanting to sponsor a family should find a group of five or more people to join, due the financial pressure and time constraints. It requires a minimum of $20,000 to support a family for a year, plus there should be someone to meet them at the airport, find a rental property, provide furniture, clothing (including winter clothing), and food; and help children enrol in school.

Click here to see a list of responsibilities for a sponsor group.

Tory’s involvement with refugees began in the 70s.

“It’s the largest refugee population in the world right now,” Kotyk said.

“From Canada, the processing overseas can be six months to a year and a half, and unfortunately [the delay] seems to be [one of the problems] that caused this poor little boy to die.”

Tima Kurdi, Alan’s aunt, said she planned to sponsor two of her brothers and their children, but could only afford to sponsor one at a time.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada confirmed it had received an application for Mohammed Kurdi, but said it was incomplete and did not meet regulatory requirements for proof of refugee status recognition.

No application was made for Alan’s father Abdullah.

“Canada is doing more than some countries, but we have a really strong humanitarian history and I think that we can do more and we should do more,” Kotyk said.

With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press

Lifeline Syria is calling on the Canadian government to do five things to help refugees:

1)  Cut complex paperwork. Exempt Syrian cases from requiring a refugee recognition document from UNHCR or a state by recognizing that Syrians outside of Syria are prima facie refugees. Let smaller groups of Canadians (Groups of Five) independently sponsor, and increase referrals from visa offices abroad, cutting the paperwork further.

2) Develop measures for Syrian family reunification. Create flexible, new immigration measures for Syrians with family members in Canada.

3) Boost resources. Commit a significant increase in financial, human and logistical resources, in Canada and in visa offices abroad, to ensure that Syrian refugee cases are processed expeditiously.

4) Go above and beyond. Make a clear commitment that increased numbers of resettled Syrian refugees will be additional to, and not at the expense of, ongoing government and private resettlement of refugees from other countries. Any increase should be over and above annual levels.

5) Match private sponsorships. Commit to a matching formula so that the government resettles one Syrian refugee for every privately sponsored Syrian refugee, over and above annual levels.