Syrian refugee crisis requires strong Canadian response

Media release

For immediate release
9 July 2014

Syrian refugee crisis requires strong Canadian response

The Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) today expressed its support for a substantial Canadian response to the UNHCR appeal for pledges for 100,000 places for Syrian refugees over the next two years (2015-2016). The CCR urges the government to focus its commitment on Government Assisted Refugees, and to introduce measures for Syrians with family in Canada.

“As Canadians we are proud of our tradition of welcoming refugees,” said Loly Rico, CCR President. “We are pleased to hear that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is preparing to open the doors to Syrians, as Canada has opened its doors during so many refugee crises in the past.”

With nearly 3 million Syrians displaced as refugees, it is urgent that Canada make a significant contribution through resettlement, in addition to the substantial humanitarian aid it is already providing. Canada has traditionally prided itself on taking one-tenth of refugees resettled worldwide. Given that the most recent UNHCR appeal is for 100,000 places, this would mean a Canadian commitment of 10,000 places over two years. A significant public pledge by Canada will provide important international leadership.

The CCR calls on the government to commit to making most, if not all of the Syrian places additional to Canada’s regular resettlement numbers, as requested by UNHCR. The commitment to resettle Syrians must not be at the expense of other refugees in need of safety and a permanent home. A strong response to Syrian refugees would allow the government to meet and exceed its 2011 pledge to increase resettlement by 20%. An additional 5,000 refugees a year would bring us back to 1980s levels for government resettlement.

The CCR also calls for measures specifically aimed at Syrians with family in Canada. The inability to assist their family members is causing severe anguish for many Canadians of Syrian origin. We continue to urge that flexible provisions be introduced to allow family members of Canadian citizens, permanent residents and accepted refugees to come to Canada. Temporary Resident Permits, with the possibility of access to permanent residence later, would allow for a response to people still within Syria, who cannot benefit from the government’s resettlement program.

It is to be noted that Germany, which has already committed to bring 20,000 Syrians, has in addition some programs specifically for Syrians with family in Germany.

The CCR urges that no commitments be made for privately sponsored refugees without private sponsors clearly indicating their willingness and capacity. Many private sponsors are keen to respond, but they face issues of capacity and significant barriers. These include the possibility of dramatic unanticipated healthcare expenses due to cuts to Interim Federal Health Program.

For further information:

Backgrounder: Responding to the Syrian refugee crisis

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Colleen French, Communications Coordinator, 514-277-7223, ext. 1, 514-476-3971 (cell),