Let 10,000 Syrian refugees settle in Canada, humanitarian groups say • The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

Let 10,000 Syrian refugees settle in Canada, humanitarian groups say

Humanitarian groups want Immigration Minister Chris Alexander to immediately let 10,000 Syrian refugees settle here and they want an explanation why the Canadian government is dragging its feet when it comes to resettling Syrians.

In 2013, Ottawa promised to admit 1,300 Syrian refugees yet the groups say only 200 people have been accepted into Canada, said Faisal Alazem, a Syrian-Canadian with the humanitarian group the Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organizations. The union helps set up field hospitals inside Syria.

Every time they ask Ottawa for precise numbers on how many Syrians have been let in, they get the runaround, said Alazem,

“There is never a clear answer. There are always answers that deflect you. We hear a lot that Canada prides itself in hosting one in every 10 (world) refugees. But our estimate is that there are not more than 200 Syrian refugees here, so far,” he said, referring to the 2013 promise.

No place is safe in Syria and nearly seven million people have been displaced from their homes and are fighting to stay alive, Alazem said Tuesday at a Toronto press conference.

“You either risk being torn into pieces by a barrel bomb, (or) you are at risk of kidnapping or falling into the hands of the Islamic State and Levant,” said Alazem, who left Damascus, Syria to come to Canada as a McGill University student in 2002.

There are more than three million Syrians living in refugee camps and on the streets in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. Yet trying to bring Syrians here, even temporarily to reunify families, is next to impossible, he adds.

“There was a horrible typhoon in the Philippines and we saw a press release from (Citizenship and Immigration) Minister Alexander stating that family reunification would be expedited for Filipinos and humanitarian measures would be taken, etc. When a Syrian-Canadian views this fast reaction from the government and sees nothing is being done for Syrians, they ask themselves, ‘What is the difference between myself and a Filipino?’ ”

Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines in November 2013. Approximately 1,540 Filipinos had entered Canada as of October 2014 as a result of the special measure, reported the Star’s Amy Dempsey.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) recently asked all global nations to support the resettlement of 100,000 Syrians in 2015-16 and have called the movement of people out of Syria the “biggest humanitarian crisis of our era.”

Humanitarian groups, including the Canadian Council for Refugees, Canadians in Support of Refugees in Dire Need, Doctors For Humanity and the Canadian Immigrant Settlement Sector Alliance, have written to Alexander’s office, requesting 10,000 spots be opened up and that a meeting to discuss Canada’s response to the Syrian crisis take place urgently.

Canada is still considering the next steps concerning the recent UN request and the Citizenship and Immigration Ministry will not speculate on what Canada’s next step will be.

Ottawa is in the process of answering the UN’s 2013 appeal to resettle 1,300 Syrians by the end of 2014 — 200 refugees through a government assistance program and 1,100 through private sponsorship.

Kevin Menard, press secretary to Alexander, defended Canada’s response to the Syrian crisis, saying Canada is a “world leader” in providing Syrians with humanitarian, development and security aid.

Since the start of the Syrian conflict, Canada has provided protection to over than 1, 640 Syrians, he said.

Menard went on to add that “Canada has one of the most generous refugee policies in the world,” and he echoed Alazem by saying Canada “welcomes about one out of every 10 of all resettled refugees globally.”

Nations such as Sweden have had no problems processing Syrian refugees. Sweden, which has about one-quarter the population of Canada, has accepted 40,000 refugees since the conflict began in 2011.

Peter Goodspeed, writing in his Atkinson series “Politics of Compassion: Canada and the Syrian Crisis,” pointed out there are devastating delays coming from the Winnipeg centralized immigration processing office that is causing refugees to wait years.

Through Access to Information Act information, Goodspeed found there is a backlog that means the benchmark 30-day processing time is not being met and “sponsors are not receiving a case decision for almost one year,” according to a departmental assessment dated almost one year ago.

The report suggested it could take two years to clear the existing inventory of cases in addition to “almost two and a half years to process projected 2014 application submissions.”

the Star

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