Yet Another Missed Opportunity to respond to Syrian Refugee Crisis

Canadian Council for Refugees
Amnesty International Canada
Syrian Canadian Council
Media Release

For immediate release
10 December 2014

Groups Decry Yet Another Missed Opportunity for Canada to respond to Syrian Refugee Crisis

Canada missed another important opportunity to be a world leader by not committing to the resettlement of Syrian refugees at yesterday’s UN sponsored global pledging conference, said Amnesty International, the Canadian Council for Refugees and the Syrian Canadian Council.

Yesterday 25 countries pledged 65,000 resettlement spaces in response to the UNHCR appeal to resettle 130,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2016.  Canada was not among the 25 countries.  Instead, a spokesperson indicated that the government “will make announcements about further commitments at a future date.”

“Six months ago the Canadian Council for Refugees called on the Canadian government to commit to 10,000 resettlement places over the next two years. At that time the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration promised that Canada would be making an announcement by the late summer or fall. It is deeply disappointing that the Canadian government is still silent about plans to resettle any more refugees from Syria.  At a time of the year when Canadians celebrate the spirit of giving, the failure to respond to this major refugee crisis is particularly jarring,” said CCR president Loly Rico.

“The Syrian Canadian Council is profoundly aware of the suffering of families and loved ones in Syria and its neighbouring countries who bear the weight of this crisis.  We know that pledges were made at yesterday’s conference for resettlement and other humanitarian admissions. To date Canada has declined to provide any special programs which would help facilitate the reunification of families even on a temporary basis” said spokesperson Faisal Alazem. “Syrians in Canada continue to hope for a commitment that they will soon be reunited with loved ones living in camps and who face hunger daily.”

“Canada must assume its international responsibilities and make a firm commitment to accept a significant share of that proportion of the world’s 3.8 million Syrian refugees identified by the UNHCR to be in urgent need of resettlement,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada. “We have the ability and experience from previous refugee crises to be a world leader. The countries surrounding Syria, which currently host the bulk of the refugees, are at a breaking point. We have failed the most vulnerable Syrians by not making a pledge at this important UN conference.”

“Last week we learned that as of November 13, only 457 out of our previous commitment of 1,300 Syrian refugees have arrived in Canada. We hoped that at yesterday’s conference Canada would make up for its pitiful response to-date by making a strong commitment to refugees from Syria. It is not too late,” said Béatrice Vaugrante, Director of Amnistie internationale Canada francophone.  “The UNHCR reports that 11 additional countries have indicated they have yet to make a resettlement pledge. We can only hope that Canada is among these countries.”

The organizations call on Canada to step up now with a significant pledge and commit to a minimum of 10,000 resettlement places over the next two years, which should be additional to Canada’s regular resettlement numbers and funded by the government. Now is the time to demonstrate goodwill and provide generous programs for Syrian refugees and families in desperate need of shelter and security.

- 30 -


Colleen French, Communication Coordinator, Canadian Council for Refugees, 514-277-7223, ext. 1, (514) 602-2098 (cell),