Canada refugee airlift hampered by exit visa requirement: minister

Wed Nov 25, 2015 7:06pm EST
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's plan to take in 25,000 Syrian refugees in the next three months is being hampered by the requirements in their host countries to get exit visas, Citizenship Minister John McCallum told Reuters on Wednesday.

The question of exit visas is "one of a number of challenges that are not fully resolved," he said.

The minister said Ottawa's decision to push back a self-imposed deadline to the end of February from year-end had nothing to do with pressure from Washington over security concerns.

McCallum also explained the decision to exclude unaccompanied, heterosexual, single adult men from government sponsorship by saying single men were more likely to be a security risk and heterosexual men were less vulnerable to persecution than gay men.

McCallum was one of several ministers who announced plans on Tuesday to take 25,000 Syrian refugees from Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan by Feb. 29.

These countries require exit permits of the refugees and the process was particularly slow in Lebanon. Canada's foreign minister, Stephane Dion, called his Lebanese counterpart to ask to help speed it up.

There did not seem to be any intent to slow things down, he said, adding regional leaders were happy Canada was taking refugees.

"But if the leaders are jumping up (and down) with joy, it doesn't mean that everybody down the chain is speedy. So it's the whole system," McCallum said.   Continued...

Canada's Immigration Minister John McCallum (L) and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan attend a news conference in Ottawa, Canada November 24, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie