OTTAWA – The Liberal government will not meet its Dec. 31 deadline to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees and now says it aims to complete the program by February.
The new target is to bring 10,000 people to Canada by year’s end and the remainder in the first two months of 2016.
The group will be a mix of government-assisted and privately sponsored refugees, all of whom will be identified by the end of next month.
The Canadian government is working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as well as the Turkish government to find suitable candidates.
Priority for government refugees will be given to complete families, women at risk, members of sexual minorities and single men only if they are identified as gay, bisexual or transgender or are travelling as part of a family.
Private sponsors have no restrictions on whom they can bring over and the majority of refugees expected to arrive by the end of the year will be coming via private groups.
All health and security screening will take place overseas and once that’s complete, refugees will be flown to Toronto and Montreal, largely on chartered aircraft.
From there, they will be spread across 36 different destination cities which already have resettlement programs in place.
Temporary accommodation will be provided by the military if required, but the government aims to have lodging in place in the host cities and towns.
The federal government cost for the program is an estimated $678 million over the next six years but doesn’t include additional funding that could be necessary for provinces and territories.
More than 500 officials have been assigned to work on the massive resettlement program, one of the largest of its kind in the world as it relates to the Syrian refugee crisis.
Since the outbreak of the war there in 2011, the UN estimates some 4.2 million people have been displaced.
The Liberals first commitment to a large-scale resettlement program during the federal election promised to resettle 25,000 people by the end of the year.
That was on top of the ongoing resettlement of Syrians refugees that began in 2013.
Government officials say that those who arrived prior to Nov. 4, 2015 will not be counted as being among the 25,000.
Since that date, about 100 Syrians have arrived in Canada.
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