Maclean’s explains: The Liberal plan for Syrian refugees

The important details of the federal Liberal government’s plan to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees
ATHENS, GREECE - SEPTEMBER 24: Refugees are seen at the port after arriving in Athens, Greece on September 24, 2015. Refugees who begin a journey with a hope to have high living standards away from conflicts, continue using Greece’s Lesbos Island as a transit point on their way to Europe. After arriving in Lesbos Island, refugees get a ferryboat to go to Athens. (Ozge Elif Kizil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Refugees are seen at the port after arriving in Athens, Greece on September 24, 2015. (Ozge Elif Kizil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Refugees are seen at the port after arriving in Athens, Greece on September 24, 2015. (Ozge Elif Kizil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

After much speculation and anticipation, the federal Liberal government detailed today its plan to resettle 25,000 refugees from Syria. Here are the important details as currently understood.

How many Syrian refugees will Canada accept under the federal government’s new plan?

In total, 25,000 refugees will be accepted by and transported to Canada under the new plan. As of November 3, a total of 3,089 Syrian refugees had been accepted under the previous government’s plan. Only refugees accepted after November 4 will count against the new goal of 25,000.

When will they get here?

The Liberal government had said its aim was for the 25,000 refugees to be in Canada by year’s end, but that has changed. The target now is to have 10,000 refugees resettled in Canada by December 31. A further 15,000 would be resettled by the end of February 2016.

Will the refugees be government-assisted or privately sponsored?

Of the 25,000 refugees, 15,000 will be government-assisted and 10,000 will be privately sponsored. The goal is to identify all 25,000 refugees by year’s end.

What did the Liberals promise during the campaign?

The Liberals promised that they would “expand Canada’s intake of refugees from Syria by 25,000 through immediate government sponsorship” and “work with private sponsors to accept even more.” The commitment of 25,000 government-sponsored refugees was understood to come with a deadline of year’s end.

How will refugees be selected?

Privately sponsored refugees will be identified by the individuals or groups who wish to sponsor them. Government-assisted refugees will be identified by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the government of Turkey. The federal government has asked the UNHCR to prioritize certain groups of refugees, specifically complete families, women at risk and members of the LGBTQI community. Single men who are members of the LGBTQI community, who are accompanying parents or who are privately sponsored will also be accepted. These are apparently the priorities under which Canada has been operating under for the last few years.

How will refugees be screened?

Immigration processing by Canadian officials will be conducted in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey—in total, 500 officials from Canada will be working overseas as part of the effort. Refugees registered with the UNHCR are issued registration cards and go through iris scans to confirm identity. Potential arrivals will be interviewed by Canadians officials, given medical examinations and subject to security screenings that include reviewing biometric and biographical data. The emergence of any reason for doubt or concern will result in the applicant’s file being set aside. Identification and health will be checked before travel to Canada and, upon arrival in Canada, refugees will be processed by the Canada Border Services Agency and given a medical examination.

Related: The UNHCR’s five-step process to screen refugees

How will the refugees get here?

The government intends to transport refugees from Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey to Canada via chartered aircraft. Military aircraft could be used if necessary.

How much will this cost?

The federal government is budgeting up to $678-million over six years to cover all costs. Provinces have recently expressed some concerns about the costs to their governments and the federal government will be discussing those costs with the provinces.

Where will the refugees go?

The chartered flights will land in Toronto and Montreal. Refugees who are not destined for those two cities will continue on. Privately sponsored refugees will go to their sponsors’ communities. Thirty-six communities across the country have also been identified by the federal government as possible destinations for refugees (more communities could be added). The Department of National Defence is preparing to house some refugees at military bases, but that option will only be used as a contingency.

What support will the refugees be given?

Basic needs and supplies will be provided for by the federal government and the government of Quebec. Refugees will also be able to access the interim federal health program, which provides basic and supplemental health services. Support for government-assisted refugees under the resettlement assistance program lasts up to one year.

What else will be done?

The federal government has established a website to direct Canadians who wish to donate money, volunteer and sponsor refugees.

What did the other parties promise during the campaign for Syrian refugees?

The Conservatives promised to resettle an additional 10,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees over the next four years, on top of the 10,000 they previously promised to resettle.

The New Democrats promised to resettle an additional 10,000 government-sponsored refugees by the end of year, and increase the number of government-sponsored Syrian refugees by 9,000 per year for the next four years.