December 8, 2015
Resettlement for Syrian Refugees Underway, but not without Challenges
According to government figures released last week, 271 Syrian refugees have arrived in Canada since the beginning of November, with another 305 set to arrive this week from camps in the Middle East. To date, the vast majority of refugees have arrived through the private sponsorship process, with far fewer securing status through government sponsorships or hybrid private-government processes.
These numbers must continue to increase if Canada’s new Liberal government is to meet its current commitment to resettle 10,000 refugees by the end of 2015, and another 15,000 by 1 March 2016. Late last month, the government announced that it would not meet its campaign promise of welcoming 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of this year. Minister McCallum has stated that the government is taking the extra time to “do it right,” ensuring that those arriving in Canada have access to proper housing and support.
The Liberal plan has also faced some criticism, as the Canadian government has requested prioritization of refugees who are said to pose a “low security risk,” such as “complete families, women at risk, gays and lesbians, and single men identified as vulnerable due to membership in the LGBT community or those who are accompanying parents as a part of a family.” Notably absent from this list are unaccompanied men, which some suggest will reinforce problematic stereotypes about Syrian men posing a threat to Canadian security.
Identifying Syrian refugees interested in resettling in Canada has also been a challenge. Only 3,000 out of the tens of thousands of refugees contacted showed up for required interviews. Minister McCallum stated in a recent news conference that there remains “huge enthusiasm” in Canada, and that this data may not be complete due to unreliable communication networks overseas.
In terms of processing, a report recently released explains that while efforts are increasing in Jordan and Lebanon, more complex circumstances have slowed operations in Turkey. Due to the migration of tens of thousands of Syrian refugees through Turkey en route to Europe, it is expected that many potential resettlement candidates are no longer in the country. The Turkish government has required more time to ensure that its candidate list is accurate, causing some delays.
As efforts continue, Minister McCallum has announced that journalists will be briefed by government officials on a weekly basis to keep Canadians informed on the resettlement plans.