Syrian Refugee Initiative


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Syrian Refugee Initiative
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The Syrian Refugee Initiative is a good example of Canada’s generous but pragmatic approach to immigration. It is the outcome of the 2015 Liberals’ electoral pledge to welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees.

While the original promise was to bring the 25,000 refugees before Christmas, the government did not hesitate to delay their arrival to make sure that the process would be conducted properly and safely, for both the refuges and the country.

Refugees already registered with the United Nations in refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon applied to come to Canada, and Canada sent a large delegation of several thousand civil servants to interview and select the applicants.

Canada was generous in choosing people who seem particularly vulnerable, but also pragmatic in choosing candidates who are a low security risk. As a result, single men, who pose the highest security risk in terms of terrorism, were mostly been excluded from the process.

The selection criteria were explained on the website of Citizenship and Immigration Canada:

“Protecting the safety, security and health of Canadians and refugees is a key factor in guiding the Government of Canada’s actions throughout this initiative. Canada's focus will be on identifying vulnerable refugees who are a lower security risk such as women, complete families and persons identified as vulnerable due to membership in the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) community. Each individual Syrian refugee that Canada welcomes will undergo a robust, multi-layered screening before departing for Canada, including the collection of biometrics.”


Another illustration of both the generosity and the pragmatism of Canada is the fact that the government called on the Canadian people themselves to sponsor refugees. Sponsors (both private individuals and businesses) commit themselves to helping refugees find housing and jobs, and helping them in all administrative matters in their new Canadian life. While this illustrates the generosity of the Canadian people, the pragmatic consequence is to greatly reduce the cost of the refugee policy for the Canadian government. It also encourages private individuals to take an active part in the process and therefore increase public support for the government’s action.

“Refugee sponsors agree to provide refugees with care, lodging, settlement assistance and support. Normally, this is for 12 months starting from the refugee’s arrival in Canada or until the refugee becomes self-sufficient, whichever comes first. Sponsors are required to demonstrate their ability to meet the required financial obligations of sponsorship. Before any application can be accepted, the sponsored persons must undergo a medical examination and a security check or background screening to ensure the safety and security of Canadians.”


The Syrian Refugee Initiative is admirable for its generosity, but also because it is a collective effort, conducted with flawless organization and transparency. It is also a pragmatic policy based on a stringent selection process to ensure the safety of the country.