2.D Refugee-Sponsor Relationship
D.2 What intervention can mitigate risks of sponsorship breakdown?
(ii) What steps should the State take to mediate and resolve disputes between sponsoring groups and refugees?
How Canada Does It
If the Government of Canada is informed by the sponsor, refugee, or a third party of a dispute between sponsors and refugees, a migration officer must contact both parties to the dispute and determine whether there is an issue that requires intervention. The migration officer first conducts a preliminary inquiry to verify whether the refugees are able to access the support they need. If there is a dispute requiring intervention, the sponsor and the refugee are provided with an opportunity to reach a mutually agreed-upon solution to prevent breakdown. If unsuccessful, the migration officer will conduct a mediation session between the sponsors and refugees. If, at this point, the parties do not succeed in arriving at a solution, the migration officer must determine which parties bear what responsibility for the breakdown, and make recommendations for the consequences of the breakdown.
Though breakdowns are rare, local migration offices may find out about a sponsorship dispute from the sponsors, refugees, or local services organizations. Migration officers should not intervene in day-to-day exchanges between sponsors and refugees since working through minor disagreements can strengthen relationships. The Government of Canada may intervene in cases where: (i) One or both of the parties to the dispute have requested an intervention; (ii) When contact with the disputing parties has confirmed that internal resolution is not possible; and (iii) When the refugee has approached a social service agency, which in turn has reported the situation to the Government of Canada.
If the Government of Canada learns of a dispute from a third party, the migration officer should contact the sponsors and refugees directly to determine whether the situation is in fact true. In cases involving Constituent Groups, the Government of Canada should notify the Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH). SAHS are first given the opportunity to resolve the dispute internally. If internal dispute resolution is unsuccessful, the Government of Canada will conduct a preliminary inquiry into a breakdown situation to assess whether the sponsors are still fulfilling their settlement and financial obligations towards the refugees and to ensure that the refugees are able to access the services they need. If necessary, an migration officer will facilitate a mediation session, which contains fact-finding components, encourages dialogue and brainstorming, and leads to mutually agreed-upon solutions.
If no solution is found, the officer must determine who is responsible for the breakdown. If sponsors are found to be at fault, they can be declared in sponsorship default (see D.3(ii)). When the assessment has been completed, the officer will draft a Sponsorship Breakdown/Procedural Fairness Letter, which addresses how one or both parties are responsible for the breakdown and includes recommendations for the consequences of the breakdown.
Throughout the mediation process, a written record of all communications involving the local migration office should be maintained. A separate document with major decisions, facts, action items, etc. should be prepared and copied to all parties involved.
Not all communities are staffed with migration officers. Where these do not exist, sponsors and refugees can contact the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program, the Canadian Council for Refugees, or other agencies and organizations serving refugees in their community for assistance. In cases of unresolvable disputes, the Government of Canada must process the sponsorship under breakdown protocols.