Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Liberals' Syrian Program an Act of Political Courage, IOM Chief Says

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Liberals' Syrian Program an Act of Political Courage, IOM Chief Says

Article excerpt

Syrian program a good compromise: IOM

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OTTAWA - The decision to extend through February the deadline to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees in Canada was a good compromise on a program the world is watching closely, says the head of the International Organization for Migration.

There was never any doubt the Liberals would follow through on a campaign promise of a major Syrian relief program, the group's director general William Swing said Tuesday in an interview with The Canadian Press.

But the logistics required to meet their goal by year's end were simply too daunting, he said.

"As we worked through this, talking to our Canadian counterparts both in Beirut, Amman and Ankara and here in Ottawa, we realized that it's just physically not possible to bring 25,000 in by the end of this year," said Swing.

"So we've come up with, I think, a good compromise -- roughly three months until around the 1st of March, that's what's been agreed to and we'll just see how that goes. That, I think, gives us a little more breathing space."

The UN has registered more than 4.28 million refugees from Syria and has asked countries to take in a minimum of 130,000 people by the end of next year.

That's not including millions who've left camps and other temporary accommodation and travelled by land or sea to European countries to seek asylum on their own.

Canada's program meets a major need, Swing said, but he wouldn't address whether it was one that required the deadline the Liberals attached.

"That's a judgment, a policy judgment the government has to make," he said.

"It's urgent in the sense it sends a good positive signal to others that if Canada can do it, perhaps they should look at also following suit in that sense. Clearly, it's been a good step from our point of view."

For the Syrian program, the IOM is helping run Canadian centres in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey that are now processing hundreds of cases a day -- 700 in Jordan, and about half that in Beirut, he says -- in a bid to resettle at least 10,000 people to Canada by year's end, and a further 15,000 people by the end of February. …

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