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Canada: Government Announces Plan to Take in up to 57,000 Refugees This Year

(Mar. 29, 2016) On March 8, 2016, the government of Canada announced it plans to take in between 51,000 and 57,000 refugees this year, approximately double the number received in 2015. (Canada Doubles Refugee Target to 57,000 by the End of This Year, THE GUARDIAN (Mar. 8, 2016); see also Notice – Supplementary Information 2016 Immigration Levels Plan, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website (last updated Mar. 8, 2016).)

Canada’s refugee system is regulated mainly by the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, S.C. 2001, c. 27, JUSTICE LAWS) and consists of the Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program, available to refugees seeking protection from outside of Canada, and an asylum program applicable to persons who make their claims from inside the country.  (The Refugee System in Canada, Government of Canada website (last updated Nov. 10, 2015).)  Most refugees are supported by the Government Assisted Refugee program, through which either the government of Canada or the Province of Quebec provides initial support and assistance to refugees being resettled in Canada.  Also, Canada allows private organizations or persons to identify and sponsor individuals who meet the admissibility and eligibility requirements under Canadian law.  (Id.)  The head of the United Nations refugee agency, Filippo Grandi, has recently stated that “Canada’s use of both government and private sponsors to help Syrian refugees resettle is a model that should be exported around the world.”  (Stephanie Levitz, Canada’s Refugee Effort Hailed as Model for World by Head of UN Agency, CBC NEWS (Mar. 21, 2016).)

The Canadian government’s announcement of the new 2016 target comes on the heel of it stating that it had met the target of bringing 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of February 2016 through an expedited plan.  (Press Release, Government of Canada, Canada Welcomes 25,000 Syrian Refugees (Feb. 29, 2016).)

Initially, Canada’s new Liberal government had declared a plan for the rapid resettlement of 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2015.  However, due to government-cited security and operational challenges (including some public resistance to the plan following the Paris terrorist attacks of November 2015), the implementation of the plan was delayed to the end of February 2016.  (Rob Gillies, Canada to Resettle 25,000 Syrian Refugees by End of February, YAHOO NEWS (Nov. 24, 2015).)

The Canadian government worked closely with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees to help identify people in Jordan and Lebanon (and a similar process was used in Turkey where the state registers refugees) who are a low security risk and particularly vulnerable, such as women at risk, complete families, and those from the LGBT community.  The plan was implemented in five phases.  (#WelcomeRefugees: How It Will Work, Canadian government website (last updated Dec. 9, 2015).)

According to a publication of the Lowy Institute for International Policy:

The revised Liberal plan involved sending large processing teams to refugee camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. The Canadian Armed Forces would establish the processing centres and provide Medical Corps staff to conduct physical examinations of the refugees. Immigration officers, agents from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and officers from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police worked hand in hand in the camps to process the refugees.  (Robert Vineberg, 25,000 Syrian Refugees in Four Months: How Did Canada Do It?, INTERPRETER (Mar. 9, 2016).)

The initial refugee flights were made by the Royal Canadian Air Force, but the plan was completed largely through the use of chartered aircrafts.  (Id.)

On March 22, 2016, the government announced, as part of its first budget, a proposal to commit an additional Ca$245 million (about US$187.6 million) over five years for the “identification, overseas processing, transportation and resettlement” of the 10,000 government-assisted Syrian refugees previously announced for resettlement during 2016.  (Budget 2016, Chapter 6 – Canada in the World, Government of Canada website (last updated Mar. 22, 2016).  See also Justin Ling, Canada Announces a $30 Billion Deficit and 10,000 More Syrian Refugees, VICE NEWS (Mar. 22, 2016).)