Canada announced Tuesday that 10,000 of 25,000 Syrian refugees will arrive by Dec. 31, with the rest coming by the end of February from Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.
The government had originally promised to welcome 25,000 in 2015.
At a televised press conference in the capital of Ottawa, Immigration and Refugees Minister John McCallum said the deadline was pushed back because of the intricacies involved – settlement, housing, medical services, etc.
“There are a lot of moving parts here,” he told reporters. “That is why [the deadline is extended]. Canadians have said, yes, do this [but] do it right … take the time.”
The government was to have sponsored the 25,000 refugees, but McCallum said the arrivals by the end of February would include private sponsors.
He added that in 2016, the government will bring its refugee intake up to 25,000 and with private sponsorship the figures will total more than 25,000, although he did not put a number on it.
Canada will screen all 25,000 refugees overseas for health and security purposes. Full families, vulnerable women and members of the LGBT community will be given priority.
McCallum also said Canada would work with Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan to “expedite the process” to get refugees the necessary exit visas.
There have been security concerns in some quarters, particularly after recent attacks in Paris, that terrorists would sneak into Canada disguised as refugees.
But McCallum said that had no effect on delaying the arrival of all the refugees by Dec. 31.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said screening would include “professional, personal interviews of each applicant [and] checking and rechecking of identification” every step of the way.
“Safety and security have always been at the top of our priority list,” Goodale said.
McCallum said the refugees will make an important contribution to Canada and Canadians will welcome the newcomers with open arms as they move from temporary settlement at places like Canadian military bases into communities across the country.
“We will welcome them with a smile,” he said. “This is a happy day and this is an important day for Canada.”
The government estimated the cost of the plan will be CA$678 million over six years.
By Barry Ellsworth
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