Canada to double refugee intake with focus on Syria

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Canada to take more Syrian refugees. File photo: Mark Blinch/Reuters

Canada aims to take in up to 57,000 refugees this year, double the number from 2015, Immigration Minister John McCallum said on Tuesday.

“Our plan will not only support our efforts at welcoming Syrian refugees across 2016, but will also help us to… welcome refugees from other countries of the world,” he told a news conference to unveil the government’s new immigration targets.

By the end of 2016 Canada will have welcomed between 280,000 and 305,000 new permanent residents, including the refugees, he said.

That is up seven percent from last year’s plan and “the highest number of projected immigration admissions put forth by the government of Canada in modern times,” according to McCallum.

The government has called for reuniting more families by allowing in 80,000 people with Canadian family ties, up from 68,000 last year.

The number of economic migrants, which represents traditionally the largest group, is expected to fall by 10 percent this year to a bit more than 160,000.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had promised to bring 25,000 government-assisted Syrian refugees to Canada before the end of 2015. But in November, the Liberal government pushed that deadline back to the end of February in order to adequately screen the incoming refugees, officials said.

Two weeks ago, Canada met that self-imposed deadline, officials said, fulfilling Trudeau’s campaign promise.

Europe’s migrant crisis became a political issue in Canada during last year’s election campaign. 

Political parties competed over the number of refugees the country should accept after a photograph of the drowned Syrian boy Alan Kurdi on a Turkish beach captured international attention.

Canada has chartered around a hundred flights from Lebanon and Jordan since Trudeau met the first arriving plane in December.

The government’s resettlement programme will cover costs for more than half the refugees during their first year. Private groups or a combination of both will cover the rest, the country’s immigration authorities said.

Some 250 Canadian cities and towns have taken in refugees so far.

The UNHCR has contacted nearly 70,000 Syrians living in refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan about emigrating to Canada. Fewer than half said they were interested.

Syrian refugees will continue to arrive in Canada, albeit at a slower pace.

The country is also processing asylum bids for another 12,000 refugees living in camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

Agencies

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