January 20, 2016 9:08 am
Updated: January 20, 2016 8:22 pm

Another Canadian city requests a pause in refugee flow

WATCH ABOVE: Immigration minister John McCallum was asked Wednesday why the federal government received requests to slow down the refugee process.

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The people in charge of resettling refugees in Toronto have requested a temporary pause in the flow of Syrian refugees because of the lack of available temporary and permanent housing.

The resettlement programs in a total of three cities – Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa – have now requested the pause. Officials from a fourth city, Halifax has asked the federal government to slow down the number of refugees headed there.

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“We have received requests to slow down arrivals in some communities. We are accommodating those requests to ensure that in the end, the refugees are well taken care of,” said a spokesperson for the Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship in an emailed statement.

“We are working with the Resettlement Assistance Program Service Provider Organizations (RAP SPOs) in those communities to ease the strain they are currently experiencing, which includes delaying arrivals for a few days.”

Meanwhile, officials in Halifax have also requested that the federal government slow down the arrival of refugees for the time being although the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia has not requested a complete pause.

“Syrian refugees continue to arrive in Halifax, just at a slower rate for the time being,” a Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship spokesperson told Global News through email.

The government said that new arrivals destined to the communities can remain in Toronto and Montreal hotels “for a few extra days before they travel on to their final destination.”

“The challenges that RAP SPOs are experiencing range from being temporarily under-staffed as they need to hire more people to handle the number of arrivals, to a lack of available and acceptable temporary and permanent housing spaces,” the Ministry of Immigration said.

On Monday, refugee settlement organizations in Ottawa and Vancouver asked the federal government to stop sending Syrian refugees to their communities.

It’s a temporary pause of five days in Vancouver, Toronto and five-to-seven days in Ottawa.

Although Calgary groups have not asked that the flow of refugees stop completely, Calgary Catholic Immigration Society CEO Fariborz Birjandian told Global News Wednesday that they are no longer taking any groups of seven or larger for now because housing is an issue.

On Wednesday, Immigration Minister John McCallum reiterated the request for pause comes from those on the ground.

“They are coming from those who are in charge of the settlement in these particular cities, not from the government officials, but from the people running the settlement,” McCallum said. “There are other places in Canada that are ready and willing to receive the refugees. So there’s a short term diversion.”

When questioned whether newly-arrived refugees are jumping the line in terms of access to housing, the immigration minister said it’s “a balancing act.”

“On the one hand we want to welcome the refugees with open arms and make them comfortable and make them productive in Canada,” McCallum said. “On the other hand we are aware that other Canadians maybe waiting a long time for social housing, so we do not want to put the refugees in the front of a queue where other Canadians have been lining up… I think that balancing act is going well, I have not heard strong complaints of refugees jumping queues.”

Although 700 government-sponsored refugees have arrived so far in B.C., only seven families have found permanent housing, while in Ottawa, there are currently about 400 people living in downtown hotels.

James Armstrong contributed to this report. With files from Leslie Young and Bindu Suri.
Correction: an earlier version of this story misspelled the name of the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society’s CEO. We regret the error.

© 2016 Shaw Media

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