Project Freedom is an initiative by Team Canada to assist refugees who are caught in the cruelty of Australia’s indefinite refugee processing system.

Refugees who attempted to reach Australia by boat in 2013 were subject to a unique, arbitrary, and non-transparent policy that banned them from ever settling in Australia yet offered no durable solution for third country resettlement.

In 2013 Australia outsourced 4,183 men, women and children to the tiny Pacific island nations of Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Nauru, to languish in limbo while waiting for permanent settlement in a third country. After a protracted and cruel detention, they were released into local communities that only allowed for the most basic existence. Eventually a deal was brokered with the United States, who committed to resettling 1250 refugees, but has taken over 4 years and is still ongoing for nearly 300 people.

As we enter the eighth year of uncertainty, there are still 290 refugees stuck on PNG and Nauru with no avenue for resettlement. Another 220 refugees were transferred to Australia for physical and mental health treatment (a direct result of offshore living conditions) and are currently residing in Australian detention centres. There is another 1220 placed in the community with no chance of a permanent visa and no options for a place to call home. These people have had almost a decade of their lives stolen from them.

When there seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel, Team Canada assisted the first refugee from PNG to enter Canada on a community sponsored visa and finally get his FREEDOM.

When refugee charity groups heard about Team Canada’s success, volunteers began assisting refugees to apply through a Canadian charity; however, the mechanisms for assessing 400 eligible claims and submitting applications was restricted due to the sheer scale of the project and annual allocations. The result is that 300 refugees are still waiting on a register without confirmation they are eligible for support,

And so, Team Canada – Project Freedom was born, to offer an alternative pathway to Canada for refugees from PNG and Nauru. We support applicants from start to finish, one at a time, because we believe that these refugees have waited at the end of a queue for long enough. Seven years of queueing is long enough.

We know that everyday Australians care about the effect that indefinite detention has had on refugees. With many helping hands, we can quickly achieve sponsorship for each applicant, creating the opportunity for another refugee to tell their story and invite new friends to be a part of their journey.

To join our current applicant, Habibi, on his journey to freedom find out more about his story here

Team Canada FAQS

Who is Team Canada?

Stephen Watt in Toronto and Jill Horton in Port Macquarie grew up 45 minutes away from each other in central Ontario, Canada. The inspiration for the Team Canada project began in 2017 after Jill went to Manus Island and felt the need to take action to alleviate the humanitarian crisis of the offshore Australian detention system. With the help of Stephen Watt, a fellow volunteer and humanitarian, she put her efforts into helping refugees start a new life in Canada through that country’s private sponsorship program, one of the only avenues of resettlement available to many of the Manus and Nauru detainees.

Stephen Watt is a volunteer and refugee advocate based in Toronto, Canada. For the past 5 years he has worked on 70+ applications for over 100 refugees from around the world, through Group of Five, Community Sponsor and Sponsorship Agreement Holder arrangements. The first two men Stephen sponsored from Manus, including Amir Sahragard, arrived in late October 2019 in Toronto. He has written applications for over 20 other detainees in the Australian immigration system who are still waiting to come to Canada. On November 19, 2020, Stephen was honoured for his volunteer and advocacy work on behalf of refugees when he was presented with the Irv Carvalho Humanitarian Award at the National Citizenship and Immigration Conference, featuring Canada’s Minister of Immigration as the keynote speaker.

Stephen serves to assess the refugee’s asylum claim and edits and finalizes the application, including the sponsor and financial forms. He works closely with the settlement teams to provide guidance on the private sponsorship process and duties and responsibilities once the refugee arrives. This is part of his wider goal of connecting refugees to sponsors and opportunities for resettlement through Canada’s private sponsorship program, carried out through his volunteer organization Northern Lights Canada.

Jill Horton is from Collingwood, Ontario and for the past 25 years has been based in Australia as an educator and social worker, focused on trauma. She has been supporting people from offshore and detention for the past 5 years including spending time in Manus in 2017.

Jill is fully responsible and committed to raising $20000 funds for each refugee, completion of the refugee application and sourcing and matching sponsors for the refugee. She is responsible for working with others to assess if the refugee fits the criteria for Team Canada project.

Jill’s background in trauma allows her to emotionally support each Team Canada refugee on their long journey as well as liaise with and educate the sponsors. Jill in her fundraising for this project has raised $67,000 in the past 3 months. She also presents to groups about the project and the history of offshore detention. Jill is in ongoing communication and provides emotional support to these men, some daily or every few days. She prides herself in providing transparent and timely communications with both the detainees and their funders and sponsors.

What exactly happens with my donation?

Team Canada are UNPAID committed volunteers. Your donation contributes 100% to the refugee’s living expenses for their first year in Canada. There are no government fees or application costs. Your donation will NOT fund wages for admin staff. Team Canada are doing this project for love, hope and humanity.

Team Canada opens an individual bank account for each refugee’s fundraiser until the target amount is achieved. The money is then transferred to the sponsors’ trust account where it remains, as required by Canadian immigration, until the refugee arrives.

If you donate through Chuffed, you will receive an online receipt. If you decide to deposit funds directly into the nominated bank account, you will receive a receipt from Jill on request, as well as information about how the money is held.

Team Canada’s fundraising is directed at Aussies because it is the Australian government’s despicable policy of torture and indefinite detention that is responsible for these refugees’ trauma and ill health. We say, “Not in my name!” With the collaboration of Australian funds and Canadian sponsors, we can work together to move on from this dark time in our country’s history.

For any questions about the funds in Australia before we transfer them to Canada, please contact Jill directly on +61 422 619 199.

What is Group of 5?

Any group of five approved Canadians can privately sponsor a refugee to live in Canada, providing the applicant’s refugee claim has been assessed as genuine and the sponsors lodge the funds for the refugee’s living expenses for their first year in Canada. Team Canada fundraises the money on behalf of Canadians who might not be in a financial position to sponsor a refugee but would love to be a part of their support network in their new hometown. Find out more about Group of 5 sponsorship here.

Unlike the allocations given to organisations, which place a cap on the number of refugees they can sponsor in a calendar year, Group of 5 applications can be submitted at any time. This means that Team Canada will never accept more applications than they can submit in a calendar year, and leave people waiting until the next year’s allocations renew.

All refugees from PNG and Nauru with a Refugee Status Determination (RSD) document are eligible to find their own Group of 5 sponsors and submit a claim for asylum directly to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. Refugees do not need an organisation to assist them to apply to Canada for asylum.

CAUTION: Refugees should seek information directly from MOSAIC before embarking on an alternative pathway, otherwise you might find your MOSAIC case closed without warning.

If you would like to read some real-life success stories of refugees sponsored via Canada’s Group of 5 pathway, see this article featuring Team Canada’s own Stephen Watt. Also, check out Stephen's Northern Lights sponsorship guide.

How do you choose the applicant and Group of 5 sponsors?

Team Canada considers only single people in possession of an RSD document from PNG or Nauru, rejected by the US process and in detention in Australia. To make it as fair as possible, a different culture is chosen each time. So far, we have sponsored a Pakistani, Ahwazi, Sudanese and Iraqi – three from PNG and one from Nauru. To make the project achievable, the person must be not married and without children as a fundraising level of $20,000 AUD is most manageable for this grassroots fundraising effort.

There is NO favouritism or NOR is there “choosing” a refugee based on the cultural preferences of a sponsor or donor. Most of these refugees Team Canada has fundraised for had no supporters in Australia.

Team Canada sought guidance from medical and medevac clinicians, Australian and Canadian refugee supporters, organisations and groups and the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program in Toronto. The criterion considers support networks, language, English skills, overall vulnerability and protective factors, family dynamics and locations, skills, well-being, medical and psychological health, character and strength of case criteria.

We take the time to get to know each applicant personally and assess their history thoroughly before matching them up with suitable sponsors.

What services does Team Canada – Project Freedom offer to applicants?

As part of its aim of getting the refugees ready for their new life in Canada, our organization Canada arranges private online English instruction for each sponsored refugee. As soon as Team Canada secures the sponsors, they are part of an online chat support group that brings together the settlement team and the refugee, with Jill and Stephen providing further support and guidance. Team Canada is committed to the ongoing well-being of each refugee it helps sponsor.

The main responsibility of the Group of 5 is to help resettle the refugee in their first year in Canada. The connection between the refugee and the settlement team begins much earlier than that, from the time the application is submitted. Team Canada is dedicated providing the sponsors with an ongoing support and understanding of the history of offshore detention, as well as the necessary trauma-informed support for each sponsored refugee.

By joining Team Canada, caring donors, sponsors and volunteers can make a real difference for these men in detention. We can show that caring Aussies are going to end their suffering without the permission or need from the Australian government. So far, Jill has single-handedly raised $67,000 in just 3 months – imagine what we can do together. Project Freedom knows offering permanent residence in Canada is key to real safety, a future and a HOME.

Please Share and Donate for Habibi Team Canada's 4th fundraiser

What does Team Canada need now?

Team Canada is searching for citizens or permanent residents in Canada to become refugee resettlement groups anywhere but Quebec. Each Group of 5 people will provide moral and communications support to the refugees while they wait for their application to be processed in Australia, and then welcome and support their sponsored refugees during their first year of settlement in Canada.

As a sponsoring group, you would:

Provide basic financial management and settlement assistance including:

Housing (shared accommodation is fine), banking, health care, driver’s licence, education, emotional support and dealing with refugee trauma. Here’s a list of the top 10 settlement duties after the refugee arrives.

A settlement plan showing the breakdown of duties shared by the sponsor team members and the social services available in their community of settlement. We have great examples of settlement plans for other successful applications.

We also need to grow our volunteers and network in Australia to fundraise the $20,000 each for more people in detention to apply to Canada for asylum. There are 300 detained refugees waiting and we would love to help more than four people. Please share Habibi’s fundraiser as without the funds it is nearly impossible to find sponsors.

Please contact Jill with ideas for fundraising, if you want to volunteer and contacts for sponsors in Canada. Marley and Habibi are still waiting for sponsors so their applications can be submitted.

By joining Team Canada, caring donors, sponsors and volunteers can make a real difference for these men in detention. We can show that caring Aussies are going to end their suffering without the permission or need from the Australian government. So far, Jill has single-handedly raised $67,000 in just 3 months – imagine what we can do together. Project Freedom knows offering permanent residence in Canada is key to real safety, a future and a HOME.

Please Share and Donate for Habibi Team Canada's 4th fundraiser