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First flight of Syrian refugees expected to arrive today in Toronto

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is planning to be on hand: ‘It will be a great day’


 
Syrian refugees walk towards Greece's border with Macedonia, near the Greek village of Idomeni, September 11, 2015. Some 7,600 migrants, many of them refugees from the Syrian war, entered Macedonia from Greece between 6 p.m. (1600 GMT) on Wednesday and 6 p.m. on Thursday, an official with the United Nations refugee agency said on the border. (Yannis Behrakis/Reuters)

Syrian refugees walk towards Greece’s border with Macedonia, near the Greek village of Idomeni, September 11, 2015.  (Yannis Behrakis/Reuters)

OTTAWA – They escaped a civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions more, leaving behind homes that have been bombed to pieces, their livelihoods and future hopes in tatters.

They fled to Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon — living in refugee camps, shantytowns and private apartments, trying to figure out their next steps, watching as what they thought would just be a temporary move away from their home country began to look more permanent.

This week, hundreds of Syrians will be on the move again, this time to Canada with the first mass arrival of refugees as part of the Liberal government’s commitment to Syrian refugee resettlement.

The first flight, a military plane with 160 people on board, left Beirut on Thursday en route to Germany, where it will make a stop for refuelling and a fresh crew before heading on to Toronto.

A second flight is set to arrive Saturday in Montreal.

All told, about 300 people will arrive in the next few days with a chance to make a home in Canada thanks to private sponsors who’ve been working for months to prepare for them.

“We have great hopes for the success of this group of people that are arriving and their families as they build their new home here in Canada,” said Arif Virani, the parliamentary secretary for immigration.

The sponsors will still have to wait a little while longer to meet their new arrivals.

Border agents, health officials and immigration officers will be on hand when the plane touches down to run the refugees through a battery of tests. They will spend the night in hotels before moving on to their new homes.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is planning to be on hand, and he has invited opposition leaders to be there too.

Montreal and Toronto will be home to dozens of such flights in the coming weeks as the government seeks to bring 10,000 Syrians to Canada by year’s end, and then a further 15,000 by the end of February.

While Syrian refugees have been arriving with some regularity since the Liberals were sworn into office on Nov. 4, they’ve arrived on commercial flights. Thursday sees the first government aircraft return from a deployment specific to a program that began as a Liberal campaign promise.

Even when in opposition, the Liberals had called for Canada to increase its commitment to Syrian resettlement, suggesting back in March that 25,000 was the number in their sights; the prior Conservative government had initially pledged to take in 11,300 people by the end of 2018.

But during the campaign, the Liberals put forward a more ambitious goal — the government would take in 25,000 people itself and work with private sponsors to bring in even more.

They later went further, saying they’d bring in that many people by the end of this year.

Work on that started the very day the Liberals won power, with companies like Air Canada reaching out immediately to see if their planes could be helpful as part of the program. Once the first two military flights arrive, private chartered flights will shuttle the vast majority of the remaining Syrians to Canada.

It wasn’t until the Liberals struck a cabinet sub-committee specifically designed to roll out the program that plans began to coalesce — and one of the first things they heard from their international partners was a plea to reconsider their original year-end deadline.

Together, Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon are hosting close to 3 million of the 4.28 million UN-registered refugees who have fled Syria since the war began there in 2011.

The Liberals also broke their plan down into stages.

To meet the 25,000 goal, about 10,000 would be those who have private sponsors at the ready and in many cases, those files were already in the immigration system because of the previous Conservative commitments. Those would be the cases targeted for settlement by the end of the year; private cases are easier because the support structure is already in place.

Then, a further 15,000 spaces would be reserved for government-assisted refugees with the goal of bringing them in by the end of February 2016.

In recent months, thousands of Syrian refugees have been arriving in Canada but the Liberals are only counting those who’ve landed since they officially took office on Nov. 4 as part of their commitment.

As of Dec. 7, that number was 416. The government says they have 11,932 applications currently in the system.

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First flight of Syrian refugees expected to arrive today in Toronto

  1. well our politicians were right – refugees mainly widows and children per photo; so let them come to Canada…! /sarc

    [80%+ look like men age 20-35]

    • I think you’re demonstrating what’s known as ‘confirmation bias’

      the picture is not of refugees coming to Canada. It’s the group that decided not to stay or go to refugees camps in Lebanon and Jordan, but rather try to get to Germany through Greece and Macedonia. This group has been called ‘economic migrants’ because they wouldn’t stay in a refugee camp outside of syria where they would at least be safe.These are not the ones Canada is taking.

      The planeload that is coming today is of families that stayed in refugee camps. there are a number of pictures attached to news stories elsewhere that show these people and they consist of families.

  2. …why does Canada need ANY immigrants or refugees at the present time, regardless their origin or background? ..go to Windsor, and look at the 1/2 empty downtown core, and acres of bulldozed land, where factories once stood! In fact, all of southern Ontario, empty factories, land and downtowns, as these industries will never be coming back, regardless of the low value of the Canadian dollar! In 20 years, Junior Trudeau will drive this country into the ground—-permanently!

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