The Government of Canada today announced additional measures to deal with the humanitarian crisis emanating from Syria and Iraq. It is also making it easier for Canadians to take action.
Canada is committing new resources and making targeted policy changes designed to speed up processing of our existing commitment to resettle Syrian and Iraqi refugees, without compromising existing security, criminality, and medical screening. As a result of these measures, we anticipate meeting Canada’s current commitment of resettling 10,000 Syrians by September 2016 –15 months earlier than planned. Canada’s existing commitment to resettle 23,000 Iraqis will also be fulfilled by the end of this year.
Visa officers will focus their interviews on security, criminality and medical screening. Going forward, unless there is evidence to the contrary, visa officers will be able to presume those fleeing the conflict meet the definition of a refugee, which will make processing faster. With these changes in place, our goal is for all Syrian applications received as of today to have a decision by the end of December 2015. This will ensure that applicants and their sponsors are aware of the progress on their files.
Building on recent processing improvements, Canada has already sent additional experienced visa officers to embassies in the region, and more will arrive in the coming weeks. We will also more than double the number of staff in Canada processing sponsorship applications to ensure new applications from Canadians wanting to sponsor refugees are assessed as quickly as possible, without compromising existing security and health screening.
To make it easier for Canadians and Permanent Residents to sponsor refugees from the region, and without compromising on documentation required for security and health screening, Canada will temporarily reduce the documentation required for the sponsorship process.
Canada is also taking steps to make it easier to connect potential sponsors with refugees referred by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and will be improving coordination with key partners.
A senior official will also be named as special coordinator for Syrian refugees. The official will work with our partners, other levels of government and private sponsors, to ensure that these refugees receive the resettlement support they need. This coordinator will also help connect Canadians interested in assisting refugees with experienced sponsorship organizations. These sponsorships will be processed in the coming months, representing families who will arrive between now and September 2016 and who would benefit from community support.
Recognizing that refugee resettlement alone will not solve the crisis in Syria and Iraq, the Government of Canada has created the Syria Emergency Relief Fund. The Government will match every eligible dollar donated by individual Canadians to registered Canadian charities, up to $100 million, effective immediately and until December 31, 2015.
Canada is also at the forefront of international efforts to counter ISIS. To address the significant security threat posed by ISIS, as well as the humanitarian and political challenges it has created, Canada is part of a coalition of partner countries determined to degrade and defeat ISIS.
Since 2009, Canada has permanently resettled nearly 25,000 Iraqi and Syrian refugees including vulnerable groups such as ethnic and religious minorities, out of an overall Government of Canada commitment of 34,300.