POLITICS

Syrian Refugee Crisis: Ottawa Still Slow To Act On Applications

10/16/2015 04:53 EDT | Updated 10/16/2016 05:12 EDT
ASSOCIATED PRESS
A Syrian refugee child sleeps on his father's arms while waiting at a resting point to board a bus, after arriving on a dinghy from the Turkish coast to the northeastern Greek island of Lesbos, Sunday, Oct. 4 , 2015. The U.N. refugee agency is reporting a “noticeable drop” this week in arrivals of refugees by sea into Greece _ as the total figure for the year nears the 400,000 mark. Overall, the UNHCR estimates 396,500 people have entered Greece via the Mediterranean this year with seventy percent of them are from war-torn Syria. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

OTTAWA — Almost one month after the Conservative government announced measures to accelerate the resettling of Syrian refugees in Canada, it still has not doubled the number of staff handling sponsorship applications.

On Sept. 19, Ottawa said it wanted all Syrian refugee applications received as of that date to have a decision by the end of this December. It also said 10,000 Syrians would be able to come to Canada before September 2016 — 15 months earlier than planned.

The announcements were prompted by the public outcry raised by the picture of Alan Kurdi, a young Syrian boy who drowned while trying to reach Europe.

Ottawa said at the same time it would more than double the number of staff handling sponsorship applications.

That has not yet happened as a spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada said Friday that number will go from 15 to 31.

As for a promise to provide additional agents to deal with visas in embassies, the department is talking about sending more in the future.

On Oct. 5, Ottawa named, without any fanfare, a special co-ordinator to handle the resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

The exact mandate of Deborah Tunis, who came out of retirement, to take the position, is not known.

Janet Dench, executive-director of the Canadian Council For Refugees, is welcoming the appointment.

"She is someone who already knows the milieu, who knows the department," Dench said Friday.

A Citizenship and Immigration Department official said in an email Tunis previously occupied a top post within the department.

The message also said she had 40 years of experience in intergovernmental relations and possesses a vast knowledge of the system.

In its September announcement, the government said the special co-ordinator would help connect Canadians interested in assisting refugees with experienced sponsorship organizations.

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