OTTAWA – Immigration Minister John McCallum says the Liberal government is prepared to start bringing Yazidi refugees into the country within four months.
He says the Liberals will support a Conservative motion calling for more support for the Yazidis, who have been singled out for particularly brutal treatment by so-called Islamic State militants.
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McCallum says his department has dispatched people to the region to begin the immigration process, although he hasn’t committed to a set number of Yazidi refugees.
He says, though, that they are a priority for the government.
One problem has been that the Yazidis have been mainly caught up in isolated combat zones, far from the refugee camps in Syria and Turkey which allow far easier access to officials seeking to screen and process newcomers.
The Yazidis are a Kurdish-speaking religious minority who used to dwell mainly in northern Iraq.
They have been targeted by ISIS militants, who have used rape, torture and mass murder against them.
The Conservative motion describes them as victims of genocide and sex slavery and calls on the government to do all it can to aid Yazidi women and girls.
McCallum said Monday that his department is working on bringing in Yazidis, despite serious difficulties.
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“It is not easy to bring the Yazidis here from the places where they are, but my department has sent an expedition out to the terrain and we are committed to bring them in within, as the motion says, 120 days or less,” he told the Commons during question period.
Conservative MP Michelle Rempel said it’s obvious what should happen.
“In this case it is easy to make priorities,” she said. “We should be bringing Yazidi women here.”
McCallum said his officials are on the case.
“We are working very hard. We have just come back from a mission in the region to determine how many and from where and over what time period we will be welcoming more Yazidis to Canada. We have committed to do this and it will be done.”
He said things are moving as quickly as possible.
“We certainly did not waste time when we brought 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada in the space of six months,” he said.