Canada says may miss end-of-year Syrian refugee target

Wed Dec 23, 2015 1:36pm EST
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By Leah Schnurr

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Canadian government still has a target of accepting 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year, Immigration Minister John McCallum said on Wednesday, although he conceded that number of migrants may not arrive in the country by then.

McCallum said factors such as weather and the time needed by refugees to prepare for their departures meant he could not guarantee the government's earlier pledge.

Canada's recently elected Liberal government campaigned on a promise to accept 25,000 refugees by the end of the year. But it pushed its deadline back to February after the deadly November attacks in Paris, saying it would bring in 10,000 by year-end.

"The human element and the weather element make it impossible to guarantee the 10,000 will have arrived on Canadian soil by the end of this month but we are working very hard to achieve it," McCallum told reporters.

Nonetheless, he said he was "very confident" that 10,000 or more refugees will be processed as permanent residents by the end of the year and that 25,000 refugees would be in Canada before the end of February.

As of Monday, 1,869 Syrian refugees have arrived in Canada since early November, according to the government.

McCallum said there would be "large numbers" of flights coming into Canada in the coming days, but other than a planeload of refugees due to arrive in Montreal later on Wednesday and another to arrive in Canada the day after Christmas, he did not give specific details.

The maximum number of flights Canada could do is five a day, though that will not necessarily be reached, McCallum said.   Continued...

A Syrian refugee family is greeted by Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard (2nd L), Canada's Immigration Minister John McCallum (3rd L) and Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre (C) at the Welcome Centre in Montreal, Quebec, December 12, 2015.  REUTERS/Christinne Muschi