Canada pushes back deadline for accepting 25,000 Syrian refugees

Tue Nov 24, 2015 6:06pm EST
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By David Ljunggren and Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Canadian government on Tuesday pushed back to the end of February its deadline for accepting 25,000 Syrian refugees, in a concession that its original Jan. 1 target was too difficult to meet.

Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, sworn in this month, made the initial pledge part of his election campaign but a wide array of critics said the goal was unrealistic.

Some provincial and municipal leaders have complained the short timeline did not allow for enough security checks to root out possible Islamic State militants. Others said they could not cope with such a heavy flow of new arrivals.

"We just looked at the logistics, we looked at what it would take to bring them in by Jan. 1, and we had options around that," Trudeau told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

"We realized that we wanted to make sure that it was done absolutely right."

The government will fly in 10,000 refugees by the end of the year and the remainder by end-February.

In another sign of the challenges it is facing, Ottawa cut back its commitment to sponsor all 25,000. Instead, 10,000 will be sponsored privately, with Ottawa aiming to reach its 25,000 target by the end of 2016.

The opposition Conservative Party said it was pleased Trudeau "had abandoned a timeline that was not workable".   Continued...

Clothing donated for an expected influx of Syrian refugees is sorted by volunteers for size and gender at a theatre rehearsal space in Toronto November 24, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Helgren