Documents reveal why Canada rejected dozens of Syrian refugee claimants

Interesting insights into how the vetting and selection process worked:

One had been a senior government official complicit in human rights abuses. Three had been involved in “subversion by force.” Another was considered a danger to the security of Canada.

Government documents obtained by the National Post reveal why Canada rejected dozens of Syrians as refugees, and provide a “high-level overview” of the backgrounds of those who were selected.

The Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada documents, released under the Access to Information Act, summarize the results of interviews of Syrian refugees conducted by visa officers in Beirut.

The refusal rate for Syrian refugees was 4 per cent according to the documents, which, though released only recently, date to the early stages of the Syrian refugee program, when the Liberal government was trying to fulfill a campaign promise to resettle 25,000 by the end of 2015.

During the first month the Liberals were in office, Canadian visa officers refused Syrian refugee claimants 35 times for everything from failing to answer questions truthfully to uncertainty about their identities.

Between 2014 and Nov. 17, 2015 83 applicants were refused — five of those for security reasons. (Because some may have been rejected for more than one reason, it is unclear exactly how many Syrians were turned away in total.)

According to the documents, the Syrians accepted as refugees came from five areas: Aleppo, Hassakeh, Damascus, Homs and the Dara’a and Sweida region along the Jordanian border in the south.

Those from Aleppo were “virtually all” Armenian families with one or two children. Most were “self-employed businessmen and tradesmen (welders, mechanic, jewelers) with moderate to high levels of wealth,” it said.

The oft repeated narrative with this group was that they were forced to take flight very suddenly, in the middle of the night or early morning upon discovering that the Daesh (ISIL) was marching on their town or village

They tended to be from neighbourhoods close to Aleppo’s old city, near the frontline between government and opposition forces. Most had fled Syria in 2012, although some had stayed until as late as 2014 because they didn’t have the money or needed to care for elderly family members.

“Those who stayed longer tended to float between neighbourhoods staying with different family members. They moved as the fighting moved and intensified in different parts of the city,” a report on the interviews said.

They cited their reasons for leaving Syria as the complete lack of security. “There was no water or power, and regular shelling of neighbourhoods. There were a few accounts of client, client family members, or neighbours having been kidnapped and ransomed.”

In Beirut, most found work in their trades while others were employed part-time at places such as restaurants. Those lacking money or jobs “tended to migrate back and forth between Lebanon and Syria,” the report said.

Source: Documents reveal why Canada rejected dozens of Syrian refugee claimants | National Post

Turkey begins process to give citizenship to eligible Syrian refugees | TRT World

Skills-based naturalization policy:

Turkey has begun the process of giving citizenship to some of the 3 million Syrian refugees living on its soil.

European countries are attracting Syrians with expertise and those with skills and capital.

It’s all part of a move announced by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to give some of Turkey’s 3 million Syrian refugees citizenship.

Those who choose to be naturalised have to offer a skill set that’s valuable to Turkey.

Syrians in Turkey work in all kinds of fields.

And some of the most successful ones are able to employ others, both Syrians and Turks, in different workplaces.

The idea is for these successful people to be given the opportunity to apply for Turkish citizenship, at least in the first phase.

If the first phase is successful, more skilled Syrians may be invited to apply.

Those who have refugee status and are not eligible for citizeship, will retain their current status.

Source: Turkey begins process to give citizenship to eligible Syrian refugees | TRT World

Ottawa ends program reuniting Syrian refugees with relatives in Canada

Reasonable given lack of sponsors who may be using other avenues:

The federal government has quietly cancelled a program that matched private Canadian sponsors with Syrian refugees abroad who have relatives in Canada because of low sponsor turnout.

The Syrian Family Links Initiative was discontinued on Dec. 31. While families in Canada had registered more than 8,000 people for the program, only 36 private sponsors applied, for a total of 127 refugees.

“Given the ongoing crisis in Syria, the response by Syrian families in Canada to Family Links has been overwhelming, with 8,025 Syrian refugee family members being registered for sponsorship. Unfortunately, the number of refugees registered far exceeded the number of sponsors available,” read Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s website.

“As a result, the Syrian Family Links Initiative will be discontinued on December 31, 2016, due to the low turn-out of sponsors.”

The immigration department said many private sponsors already knew Syrian refugees in Canada with displaced family members overseas, and therefore few of them used Family Links. However, some people involved in refugee sponsorship said the program was not promoted enough.

The government does not track how many Syrian refugees sponsored through Family Links have arrived in Canada,. Nearly 40,000 Syrian refugees had landed in Canada as of Jan. 2 – 21,751 government assisted, 13,997 privately sponsored and 3,923 through a blended program of private and government sponsorship.

Source: Ottawa ends program reuniting Syrian refugees with relatives in Canada – The Globe and Mail

Last-minute wave of Syrian refugees lets Liberals keep their promise – The Hill Times – The Hill Times

Another commitment met:

A trickle of incoming Syrian refugees turned to a stream late last year, helping the federal government to check off one of the key targets from its 2015 election campaign.

Nearly 2,000 government-supported Syrian refugees arrived in Canada in mid-December, bringing the total to more than 25,000 since the Liberal government took power in 2015 and began to admit thousands of people displaced and endangered by the turmoil in and around the Middle Eastern country.

The surge of new arrivals in late 2016 came thanks in part to the government taking a longer look at “a number of” refugee applications from earlier in the year for security or medical reasons, delaying travel to Canada that may otherwise have occurred earlier, according to departmental officials.

People in the refugee resettlement sector were preparing for the December arrivals, said one sector executive. The executive and another said the government tipped them off ahead of time about the expected late-year surge. They said the few thousand government-supported refugees who arrived in the last couple of months of 2016 was nothing compared to the influx in the first two months of the year, when the government pressed to meet its target of bringing in 25,000 refugees through both private and government streams.

Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada could not provide statistics by press time on how many refugee applications required more time for security or medical screening, or how many of those cases were rejected. Spokesperson Nancy Chan wrote that those individuals had “more complex” cases that required more time to evaluate, but added the government used the same security and health screens for all Syrian refugees.

The government had promised to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees through its government-assisted and blended refugee programs by the end of the year—not be confused with an earlier target of 25,000 Syrians from private and government streams by the end of February.

…It appeared through much of last year that the government would miss its end-of-year 25,000-person goal, perhaps badly. About 11 new Syrian refugees were entering Canada each day on average between March and the beginning of August, far off the pace needed for the government to hit the target it was then several thousand people shy of, according to data published by the department roughly every week.

However, the number of refugees arriving in Canada rose steadily in the finals months of 2016. About 56 Syrians arrived per day on average in mid-November; that jumped to an average of 77 per day by Dec. 4, then 136 per day between Dec. 11 and Dec. 19, when the government surpassed its target.

The federal immigration department says the surge in new arrivals late in the year was not out of the ordinary; immigration officials worked steadily over the months to meet their year-end target, and there is typically a three-to-six-month delay between when applicants are given their first interview and the time they arrive in Canada, according to emailed responses from Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada spokespeople.

The government “made it clear” early on to refugee resettlement organizations that there would be a wave of refugees arriving late in the year, said Louisa Taylor, director of Ottawa’s Refugee 613, a coalition of groups that support refugees.

Syrian refugees need better ways to reconnect with their families 

One view by Anneke Smit, Gemma Smyth and Jillian Rogin:

We know that in order to bring in more than 25,000 refugees in just a couple of months, complicated files were avoided, as were single young male refugees. Therefore, some of the most vulnerable were not offered resettlement, even when other members of the family were. In the case of the refugees our group is sponsoring, 10 family members were living together for years under one roof in Lebanon. The nuclear family of husband, wife and four young children was selected for resettlement while the other family members – elderly parents, orphaned nephew, and brother aged 18 – were not. Neither was another sibling, her spouse and young children. Given the limited options for family reunification after arrival in Canada, this selective approach is particularly distressing.

As a result, Syrian refugees will have to look to private sponsorship (groups of five, for example) as their only hope for extended family reunification. This process is complex and financially out of reach for most resettled refugees for at least several years. In the case of “our” family, they found in us a sponsor group willing to raise the funds and sponsor their most vulnerable family members. But that shouldn’t have been necessary had the family been resettled together, or if family reunification channels were more expansive.

This “echo effect” of our massive and laudable Syrian resettlement effort is not going away. During the Kosovo refugee resettlement in 1999, Canada allowed for reunification of a wide array of extended family members of Kosovars already in Canada. We can do the same again today. Along with adequate language training, employment support, mental health counselling and other settlement services, reuniting families is a key part of ensuring this was a job well done.

Source: Syrian refugees need better ways to reconnect with their families – The Globe and Mail

ICYMI Immigration au Québec: les Syriens détrônent les Français | Pierre-André Normandin | National


Les données obtenues auprès du ministère de l'Immigration... (Photo Alain Roberge, archives La Presse)

Latest immigration statistics from Quebec showing the impact of Syrian refugees:

Les données obtenues auprès du ministère de l’Immigration du Québec démontrent qu’un nouvel arrivant sur 7 lors du 1er semestre de 2016 était originaire de Syrie.

L’arrivée massive de réfugiés syriens au début de 2016 a profondément modifié le visage de l’immigration au Québec. Les Syriens ont en effet détrôné les Français comme principal groupe d’immigrants, selon les données de l’Institut de la statistique du Québec (ISQ).

Le bilan démographique du Québec, publié aujourd’hui par l’ISQ, dresse le portrait de l’immigration dans la province. Les données obtenues auprès du ministère de l’Immigration du Québec démontrent qu’un nouvel arrivant sur 7 lors du 1er semestre de 2016 était originaire de Syrie.

Il s’agit du principal groupe d’immigrants à s’installer au Québec. Cette proportion est nettement plus forte que la part d’immigration observée en 2015. La Syrie représentait 5,9% de toute l’immigration l’année dernière.

En 2015, le principal groupe d’immigrants provenait de la France. Ceux-ci ont représenté 9,2% de toutes les personnes ayant décidé de quitter leur pays pour s’installer au Québec. L’arrivée des Français dans la belle province ne s’est pas tarie en 2016, au  contraire. Ceux-ci représentaient au premier semestre tout près d’un immigrant sur dix.

Alors que l’immigration en provenance de Syrie augmente rapidement, l’Institut note une baisse du nombre de personnes venant s’établir au Québec en provenance de l’Iran, de l’Algérie et d’Haïti. Ces pays ont longtemps été une importante source d’immigration pour la province.

Le portait de l’immigration au Québec est sensiblement différent de celui du reste du Canada. Les Philippines fournissent le principal contingent d’immigrants pour le pays, suivi par l’Inde. Ces deux pays ne figurent pas parmi les principaux groupes d’immigrants au Québec.

Part de l’immigration par pays

Rang 1er semestre de 2016 2015
1. Syrie: 14,5 % France: 9,2 %
2. France: 9,9 % Chine: 7,4 %
3. Chine: 6,7 % Iran: 7,3 %
4. Iran: 5,2 % Syrie: 5,9 %
5. Haïti: 4,6 % Algérie: 5,5 %

‘Frustrating’ backlog of refugee applications will likely get longer as federal targets drop

Not terribly surprising, both the year-to-(exceptional)-year decline and the resulting frustration:

Spurred on by this year’s fast-tracking of displaced Syrians, nearly 30,000 more people are in line to come to Canada as refugees — but they may be in for a wait as the total number of refugees to be resettled in the coming year is much lower than this year’s target.

According to Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada there are 4,264 Syrians with approved applications who are waiting to fly to Canada.

Another 25,756 applications are pending final processing.

Chris Friesen, director of settlement services with the Immigrant Services Society of B.C. (ISSBC) calls the 2016 push to resettle tens of thousands of Syrians displaced by a bloody conflict a “bold humanitarian mission.”

“It captured the world’s attention, and, of course, captured Syrian’s interest in the region.”

But with reduced numbers for the refugees to be resettled next year, and the large inventory of applications already being processed by Canada’s immigration offices, Syrian families hoping to come here could be waiting for years.

“It’s something that we need to look at — there is a lot of pent up interest,” Friesen says. Based on current processing times and the already-existing backlog, Friesen says “it could take the government three years to address the private sponsorship applications on file.”

The federal government says 2017 numbers will be lower compared to what it calls the “extraordinary target” in 2016. In 2016, the target for refugees and protected persons was 55,800. In 2017, that number drops to 40,000. But that is for all refugees from across the world, not only from Syria.

As telling, the target number of government assisted refugees (GARS) drops to 7,500 next year, from more than 18,000 over the last 12 months.

….Some patterns emerged when ISSBC surveyed 300 Syrian households who arrived in B.C.

Roughly 17 per cent of the people surveyed say they have found part-time or full-time work. English classes have been popular, with 75 per cent of the respondents saying they had signed up.

Fifteen per cent of the people surveyed reflect symptoms of untreated trauma, ISSBC says.

And three quarters of the newly arrived refugees have family members left in the Middle East who want to come to Canada.

Canada’s immigration department said it’s in the process of finalizing a broad report called “Rapid Impact Evaluation” that will look at how the 26,000 refugees who came by March 2016 are adjusting in Canada but the department would not yet reveal its findings.

‘We can’t abandon them’: Senators urge more language, mental health supports for Syrian refugees

Sensible set of recommendations:

One year after the first wave of Syrian refugees arrived in Canada, the Senate’s committee on human rights is urging the federal government to boost language training, mental health services and financial supports to ease the next phase of the resettlement process.

Releasing a report called “Finding Refuge in Canada: A Syrian Resettlement Story,” committee chair Jim Munson said while the program has been a Canadian success story, the government and citizens must not be complacent.

“We can’t abandon them. We can’t let indifference set in. We need to do more to help them in their next resettlement steps,” he said during a news conference in Ottawa Tuesday.

The report recommends:

  • The minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship set and meet specific standards for processing times.

  • Improving the flow of information to refugees on the status of applications.

  • Connecting refugees with networks of supportive individuals in their communities.

  • Ensuring the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) maintain timely processing for disbursement of the Canada Child Benefit.

  • Replacing immigration loans for transportation expenses with a grant.

  • Increasing funds for language training, and providing accompanying child care to improve access for women.

  • Working with provinces, territories and community groups to enhance programming for youth.

  • Improving culturally appropriate mental health programs.

  • Identifying possible changes to facilitate timely family reunification.

Source: ‘We can’t abandon them’: Senators urge more language, mental health supports for Syrian refugees – Politics – CBC News

And The Globe has a good profile of how some schools are integrating Syrian refugee kids:

 Finding sanctuary: Why education is challenging but crucial for Syrian refugees 

More people should engage in politics so ‘no party gets to run against Muslim Canadians,’ Justin Trudeau says

Pitch perfect:

Galloway asked the prime minister for his reaction to the proposal to screen immigrants for “anti-Canadian values” put forward by federal Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch.

Trudeau did not address Leitch by name. He said he told a group of Muslim-Canadians during a recent meeting that he was happy to have them as supporters. However, he said he suggested they encourage family members and friends to also get involved in politics, whether on behalf of the Liberals or another party that aligns with their values.

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“The other two political parties have leadership races on now. I’d like to see more Canadians of diverse backgrounds engaging with parties that line up with their convictions and ideologies to make sure that no party gets to run against Muslim Canadians or any other group of Canadians and demonize them,” Trudeau said.

“And I think the way we do that is getting involved in the whole breadth of the political spectrum in Canada. I’m happy when people decide they are more aligned with me and my party, but they should also think about being active and aligned with parties that disagree with me on certain issues.”

Galloway also asked the prime minister about how his policy, which has brought more than 35,000 Syrian refugees to Canada in just over a year, contrasts with that of U.S. president-elect Donald Trump and some politicians across Europe, who advocate for a more closed approach on refugees.

“I’m not going to answer whys,” he said. “I’m just going to continue to point out the facts that the way Canada is benefiting from welcoming in people who are so deeply committed to living up to the opportunity given to them.”

He added, “I challenge any one of those governments or those citizens to sit down around a table like this and break bread and not be afraid of the other.”

Source: More people should engage in politics so ‘no party gets to run against Muslim Canadians,’ Justin Trudeau says – | Metro Morning

Syrian exodus to Canada: One year later, a look at who the refugees are and where they went

Really good analysis and charts in the Globe regarding Syrian refugees (sample below):

Across the country, Syrians have arrived in new neighbourhoods and schools and, as with so many waves of immigrants before them, both the refugees and the communities that receive them will be changed by the experience. As Canada marks the first year of this initiative, we take a closer look at Syrian refugees through the demographic data.

syrian_exodus_to_canada__one_year_later__a_look_at_who_the_refugees_are_and_where_they-went_-_the_globe_and_mailOther charts highlight family size (larger than expected), education (most high school or less), aged (most under 18), knowledge of an official language (about 40 percent, mainly English).

Source: Syrian exodus to Canada: One year later, a look at who the refugees are and where they went – The Globe and Mail