Photo by Sarah James / The Phoenix News
Photo by Sarah James / The Phoenix News

Last year, the Students’ Union ran a referendum to collect a levy to sponsor Student Refugee transfers to our campus. 73.7% of students who voted in the election, voted in favour of adopt-ing the Student Refugee Program (SRP).

Though the referendum was held in the wake of the Syrian refugee crisis, the SRP was first initiated in 1978 with Carleton University being the first to partake in the program. UBC Van-couver also adopted the program in 1985 and last year they increased their levy, which doubled their contribution to the program. Currently, UBC Vancouver sponsors 8 student refugees.

However, despite UBCO students voting overwhelmingly in favour of the program last year and each being charged a $2.00 levy this year, student refugees are not set to arrive until next Fall. This is due the the fact that last year the intent to sponsor form was not filled out.

The World University Service of Canada (WUSC) has a deadline of November 27 for the submission of intent to sponsor forms, which details how many students our campus is capable of sponsoring. Since the intent to sponsor form was never filled out last year, UBCO will be sponsoring 1-2 students for September 2017.

Currently, UBCSUO President Blake Edwards is working on the Memorandum of Understanding between UBC and the UBCSUO outlining the details and contribution of each respected party towards the Student Refugee Program. As soon as the MoU is signed, the UBCSUO will be re- cruiting applicants to form the UBCO-WUSC Local Committee.

According to Edwards, the Local Committee will work throughout the year to develop the framework of the program and put in place the proper partners to help support our students when they arrive in 2017.

“One of the main roles of the Committee is to think about the social aspects for the student refugees,” said Edwards. “It is one of the main challenges students have in their transition from where they came from.”

Furthermore, the UBCSUO President is also hoping to expand the program. “Right now, the referendum question stated that the levy would only be collected for 4 years. I am hoping that we can change that such that this is a continuous program.”

Ultimately, some students may be unhappy that they are being charged a $2.00 levy this year for a program that will not see its fruits until next year. However, students can be assured that this levy is going towards an invaluable cause and that by next Fall UBCO will be sponsoring 1-2 student refugees.