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Despite promise to speed up the process, Ottawa slow to act on Syrian refugees

Syrian refugees who came to Canada last December, Hanan Alawwad, second left, and her husband Samer Aldhmad stand with their children Nour Aldhmad, 4, from left to right, Omar Aldhmad, 1, Ayman Aldhmad, 7, and Nawwar Aldhmad, 3.
Syrian refugees who came to Canada last December, Hanan Alawwad, second left, and her husband Samer Aldhmad stand with their children Nour Aldhmad, 4, from left to right, Omar Aldhmad, 1, Ayman Aldhmad, 7, and Nawwar Aldhmad, 3. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

OTTAWA – Almost one month after the Conservative government announced measures to accelerate the resettling of Syrian refugees in Canada, it still has not doubled the number of staff handling sponsorship applications.

On Sept. 19, Ottawa said it wanted all Syrian refugee applications received as of that date to have a decision by the end of this December. It also said 10,000 Syrians would be able to come to Canada before September 2016 – 15 months earlier than planned.

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The announcements were prompted by the public outcry raised by the picture of Alan Kurdi, a young Syrian boy who drowned while trying to reach Europe.

Ottawa said at the same time it would more than double the number of staff handling sponsorship applications.

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That has not yet happened as a spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada said today that number will go from 15 to 31.

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As for a promise to providing additional agents to deal with visas in embassies, the department is talking about sending more in the future.

On Oct. 5, Ottawa named, without any fanfare, a special co-ordinator to handle the welcoming of Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

But the exact mandate of Deborah Tunis who came out of retirement to take the post is not known.