Canada: We’ll resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees
OTTAWA – Justin Trudeau’s newly elected government has confirmed it will resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees in Canada within three months, giving top priority to those who are a lower security risk.
The plan as outlined prioritizes families and vulnerable individuals, including those from the LGBT community.
Single unaccompanied men will be excluded from the government resettlement program for now. However, government officials say those individuals can still apply to come to Canada through private sponsorship programs or could possibly be resettled through a government-sponsored program later in 2016.
“Through the rest of 2016, we will bring in more refugees,” said Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Minister John McCallum at a news briefing in Ottawa on Tuesday.
“I’ve been saying time and time again, that yes, we want to bring them fast, but we also want to do it right,” he said adding, “I’ve heard Canadians across this country saying, ‘yes you have to do it right, and if it takes a little bit longer to do it right, then take the extra time.’ ”
Prime Minister Trudeau had promised during the election campaign to resettle 25,000 refugees by the end of year. Trudeau says he extended the deadline because of operational and security challenges.
In an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Trudeau admitted that the Paris terror attacks had an influence on public perceptions and that his government decided it would be best to do all security checks on the ground in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey before allowing refugees to board planes to Canada.
“It would allow Canadians to be more reassured. Like I said, we want these families arriving to be welcomed, not feared,” he said during an interview Tuesday with the CBC.
The Canadian government has launched an information campaign nationwide using the hashtag, #WelcomeRefugees. It is encouraging Canadians to donate, volunteer or even sponsor refugees.
Two recent polls conducted in Canada after the Paris terror attacks indicate that a small majority of Canadians oppose the plan to resettle refugees mainly because of security concerns.
Despite that, every province in Canada has agreed to take in refugees and charity organizations have been inundated with offers from private citizens eager to welcome and help resettle refugees.
Canadian government ministers tasked with screening the refugees called this “a big humanitarian project” that represents the “best values and character of the country.”
“That’s why safety and security have always been at the very top of our priority list. From day one, we have repeatedly said that we will not compromise the quality of the security work that must get done,” said Ralph Goodale, Canada’s public safety minister.
Goodale said the security evaluations to be conducted on the ground in the Middle East will be robust, integrated and multi-layered.
When they arrive in Canada, refugees will temporarily be housed in former military barracks, vacant hospitals or hotels and also with families who have volunteered to sponsor refugees. The first plane load of refugees is expected to touch down in early December.
Canada says it is already working closely with the UNHCR to identify and screen the most vulnerable refugees, the bulk of whom will come from Jordan and Lebanon. Canada has also pledged to take refugees of all faiths.
By Paula Newton, CNN