In spite of more than half of Canadians opposing the Liberal government’s plan to accept Syrian refugees into the country, newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has kept to his election promise to do just that. There has been a change however. In an announcement on November 25, officials said the relocation of 25,000 refugees from the war-wracked nation will be extended up to February of next year, two months later than its original timetable to have them all in by year’s end.
Oppositionists must be somewhat relieved. Their main beef with the resettlement plan was the speed with which it was to be implemented. Given such a short timeline, there is a fear that security checks might be circumvented to meet the deadline, allowing terrorists posing as refugees to get in. John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship has said that “Canada has a proud history of doing the right thing for refugees” but that to be fully prepared for the plan, it’s alright to put in the extra time. The amended schedule is for 10,000 people to come into Canada by December 31 and 15,000 by January and February next year.
Another change is in the sponsorship of the evacuees. Where the first intention was to have all of them directly sponsored by the federal government, now it will be 15,000 and the rest will have sponsorship from private organizations and individuals, such as church groups and relatives already in the country.
The refugee resettlement plan will involve comprehensive scrutiny and health and security check of all entrants to be done overseas, before they arrive in Canada. They will come from the camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon and only women, children, families and LGBTs will be picked. Single men as part of a family are also included. Pre-screening will be done by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Turkish government, and the immigration and military agencies of Canada. All refugees will become permanent residents and will receive health and financial assistance, as well as language classes, from the government.
Over in the United States, Pres. Obama’s plan to increase the number of Syrian refugees coming into the country by 10,000 has been met with strong opposition from the Republicans and quite a few Democrats. Leading GOP presidential aspirants Trump and Carson are united in their stand against the refugees, with Trump calling for a Muslim database and Carson likening them to rabid dogs. The November 13 Paris attacks triggered the new resistance, with the House of Representatives passing a bill that added measures to the existing requirements for the entry of Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the US, making it more difficult for them. Each refugee would need a certification from the secretary of homeland security, the FBI director and the director of national intelligence that he or she is not a threat to the nation’s national security. This is on top of the extensive security screening done before they are accepted, with the process running up to 18 months.
Refugees to both Canada and the United States become permanent residents after having fulfilled certain requirements. According to a visa lawyer, they are under a protected person status and may apply for citizenship after a required number of years of living in the country and abiding by its laws.
While the Liberal government of Canada has the support of more than 30 mayors and its 13 provinces and territories regarding the refugee resettlement issue, 27 states in America so far have said they will not allow these people to enter their territory. Although Washington says states do not have the authority to refuse refugees, their officials can make life difficult for them by withholding funds for their education and making it hard for them to be employed.
The president has declared that he will veto the recently-approved legislation blocking the refugees’ entry if it will be passed by the Senate. At the same time, in his Thanksgiving message, he has also appealed for generosity and compassion for the displaced people who are victims of the strife in their country.