According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, millions of Syrians have fled violence, insecurity, Assad-backed barrel bombs, and Islamic-State brutality, since civil war broke out in Syria in 2011.

As of Oct. 4, the UNHCR had registered more than four million  Syrians who left their country, desperately seeking a safe place to settle.

The massive migration has sparked both an outpouring of compassion and heated political and security debates around the world, including in Canada.

For Canadians who want to lend a hand to Syrians fleeing war, here's how you can help:


According to the government, its Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program helps thousands of refugees each year.

Sponsors are responsible for providing both financial and emotional support while a refugee arrives and adjusts to the country.

To sponsor a family of four, this translates to a year-long, $27,000 commitment, at least, Lifeline Syria spokesperson Wendy Cukier told CTV's Canada AM in September, 2015.

Because of this, many private sponsors take on the responsibility in groups, through faith-based or community organizations, charities, or "Groups of Five." Groups of Five refer to groups of five or more Canadian citizens or permanent residents, over the age of 18, who commit to sponsorship.

"You can divide (the money) up, you can find in-kind donations, but you have to have a group of people who are prepared to sign papers and say 'we will support this family for a year,' " Cukier said.

According to Cukier, it usually takes a few weeks for a group of sponsors to get approved. After that, however, it can be many months until the Canadian government accepts a refugee into the country and matches them with an appropriate sponsor.


There are a wide range of organizations helping Syrian refugees around the world. Some of these include:

The UNHCR - Donations to the UN refugee agency help provide shelter, water, education, food and healthcare to refugees.

The World Food Programme - The WFP helps provide food for refugees who have fled from Syria. Earlier this year, the cash-strapped program announced that it had been forced to cut down on aid for refugees in Lebanon and Jordan because of a lack of donations

UNICEF - UNICEF provides life-saving aid to children and their families in Syria, as well as to refugees who have fled the country. The organization says it is dedicated to preventing Syrian children from become a "lost generation."

The Canadian Red Cross - The Canadian Red Cross partners with the Syrian Arab Crescent on the ground in Syria to provide food, household items, healthcare, and supplies to help survive the chilly winters.

Amnesty International - Amnesty monitors and reports on rights violations in Syria, interviews refugees and shares their stories, and meets with officials to push for humanitarian access and protection.

World Vision - World Vision is working in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Turkey, to help the millions of Syrian children and families who need aid.

Get involved in Canada

The Canadian Council for Refugees is a national non-profit organization that works to protect and advocate for refugees in Canada and around the world.

It welcomes new members who are willing to "advance the rights of refugees and immigrants," help design and push for policy changes, and educate others about refugee issues.

Get involved abroad

Some organizations, such as Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders), are looking for skilled staff to help provide medical aid around the world. MSF, which has been active in Syria since 2009, works to help migrants and refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean and enter Europe.

Speak up

With the Oct. 19 federal looming, Lifeline Syria's Cukier urged Canadians to continue to press politicians on refugee issues.

"Canadians have to deliver a strong message to politicians from all parties about what a priority this is," she said.

Lifeline Syria is calling for the federal government to cut down on required paperwork for refugee applicants, make it easier for families to reunite in Canada, commit more resources to help refugees, and match sponsorships so that for every privately-sponsored refugee, the government will sponsor a second one.