The federal government is likely to miss its target to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2015 by a wide margin.
An analysis of the government’s own statistics shows that as of Dec 29 only 4,295 Syrian refugees have arrived in Canada on 15 flights chartered by Ottawa.
With only seven more government-chartered flights planned until the end of the year – three to Montreal and four to Toronto – another 1,944 refugees are expected to arrive in Canada by Dec 31, bringing the total to 6,239 Syrians.
It’s not clear how many additional refugees might arrive on their own, on commercial flights, but in any case, as of Dec 28 Canadian officials at processing centres in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey had completed a total of 8,891 applications, which includes the 4,295 who have already arrived in Canada.
This means that even if all the remaining 4,596 Syrian refugees whose files have been finalized were to arrive by Dec 31, the Liberal government would still fall short of its already revised target for this year.
Moreover, further analysis of the numbers provided by the government shows that Canadian officials have not identified enough Syrian refugees to meet their goal of bringing in 25,000 Syrians by Feb 29, 2016.
Only 23,859 Syrian refugees out of over 130,000 contacted by the UN Refugee Agency in Jordan and Lebanon by phone and text messages expressed interest in moving to Canada.
As of Dec 21, the UNHCR, had only referred 16,005 Syrians for interviews with Canadian officials.
So unless in coming weeks the UNHCR contacts and refers to Canadian officials thousands of additional refugees, the existing pool of referrals is not big enough to meet the Trudeau government’s campaign commitment, despite assurances that the pace of resettlement will increase dramatically in January and February of 2016.
Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship John McCallum and Health Minister Jane Philpott, Chair of the Cabinet Ad Hoc Committee on Refugees, will provide an update Thursday morning on Canada’s plan to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees at a press conference at Toronto Pearson International Airport.