POLITICS

1st 'urgent' Syrian refugees to arrive in 'coming months'

08/23/2013 02:18 EDT | Updated 10/23/2013 05:12 EDT
Two-hundred Syrian refugees to be accepted by the federal government as "urgent" cases have yet to arrive in Canada.

Former immigration minister Jason Kenney said last month Canada would accept as many as 1,300 Syrian refugees by the end of next year, including 200 "extremely vulnerable, urgent cases."

But Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said in Ottawa on Friday none of those initial 200 refugees have yet arrived in Canada.

"That pledge remains," Alexander told reporters. "It's in response to a very urgent appeal from the UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees) and we've been very generous, as we always are in Canada, with regard to refugee appeals."

Alexander said the 200 refugees will be re-settled "in the coming months."

"They're not here. That resettlement will begin in the last months of this year and it will continue through 2014."

The remaining 1,100 spots will be filled through private sponsorship rather than government resettlement.

Alexander said Canada is supporting a larger refugee response effort that involves tens of thousands of refugees in countries surrounding Syria and Iran, including Jordan and Turkey.

"We continue to be one of the principal contributors to the refugee response equation in and around Syria. That involves a limited number of refugees who will be resettled in Canada," Alexander told reporters at an event to mark a new memorial in Ottawa for the victims of state-imposed communism.

"The main focus of response is in the regions themselves, particularly in Jordan."