NEWS
03/18/2016 08:30 EDT | Updated 03/19/2017 01:12 EDT

Syrian refugee sponsors call out John McCallum on wait times

Immigration Minister John McCallum's Vancouver visit is prompting community groups to speak out as they continue to wait for Syrian families they have privately sponsored to arrive. 

McCallum is visiting the West Coast today to talk about the social and economic contributions of immigration to society.

David Berson with East Vancouver's Or Shalom synagogue says they have done everything they can to prepare for the arrival of four Syrian refugee families they've sponsored, including taking classes to learn about Syrian culture.

But three months after submitting their application, those families are no closer to coming to Canada. They're stuck in northern Iraq, waiting to be processed by the government.

"We're feeling very frustrated," Berson said.

"Even though many of us belong to faith communities, it's not good relying on prayers when people are in such difficult situations. We really would like to see some action and some movement."

According to Immigration Canada's website, application processing time for refugees from Syria is estimated at 22 months. For privately-sponsored refugees from Iraq, it's 45 months.

Berson and at least two other Metro Vancouver groups will present a letter to Minister MacCallum today as they urge him to speed up the process.