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Syrian Refugees In Canada: Here's What We've Done Since 2012

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Here is a look at Canada's response to the refugee crisis brought on by the Syrian civil war:

2012

— Canada closes its embassy in Damascus, a move that would come to have major repercussions for refugee resettlement out of the Middle East as that visa post handled the majority of the files for refugees from other countries who had sought temporary safety in Syria. Those files were transferred to nearby countries, leaving visa officers scrambling to handle them and the start of a surge in Syrian refugee applications.

— By the end of 2012, the UN had registered close to half a million Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries.

— Syrian Canadians call on Canada to do more to support the refugees, including speeding up family reunification programs and opening the doors to more refugees, but the government says it will not act without an official request from the UN.

syrian refugees in turkey
A Syrian mother hugs her children after they arrived from Turkey at the Greek island of Lesbos on an overcrowded inflatable boat on Oct. 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Santi Palacios)

2013

March:

— The number of people registered as refugees from Syria or being assisted by the UN hits one million.

June:

— The UN makes its first formal request to member countries to assist in refugee resettlement, asking for 30,000 spaces by the end of 2014.

July:

— The Harper Conservatives promise to admit 1,300 Syrian refugees by the end of 2014, with the majority sponsored by private groups. The 200 spots available to government-assisted refugees are those already set aside each year for the Syrian program.

syrian refugees in canada
Reemas Al Abdullah, 5, gets a hug from her father Abdullah Al Abdullah prior to a dinner hosted by Friends of Syria at the Toronto Port Authority on Dec. 27, 2015. (Bernard Weil/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

2014

January:

— Then-prime minister Stephen Harper visits a refugee camp in Jordan, one of the main host countries for Syrians. He announces $150 million in humanitarian aid.

February:

— The UN High Commissioner for Refugees asks the world for an additional 100,000 places for Syrian refugees by 2016. Canada says it is reviewing its options.

March:

— Then-immigration minister Chris Alexander admits that fewer than 200 Syrian refugees have arrived in Canada since the July 2013 promise, saying the UNHCR was slow passing on referrals.

December:

— By the end of the month, just over 1,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in Canada, meaning the government missed its deadline.

syrian refugees toronto
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne greet Syrian refugees arriving in Toronto in December 2015. (CP)

2015

January:

— The Conservative government commits to allowing 10,000 more Syrian refugees in by 2018, most through the private sponsorship program. The focus is to be on religious minorities.

March:

— The government finally meets its July 2013 promise to resettle 1,300 people, achieving it by increasing the number of government-assisted refugees.

— The Liberals make a commitment that if elected, they would resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees under government care.

June:

— The Conservatives order an audit of the government-assisted refugees coming out of Syria, citing security concerns. The review identifies no problems but delays the processing of those files for several weeks.

August:

— A federal election is called.

— The Conservatives pledge that if re-elected, they will allow a further 10,000 Syrians in over the next four years, continuing a focus on those being persecuted because of religion.

September:

— A photograph of three-year-old Alan Kurdi lying dead on a Turkish beach galvanizes the refugee issue. News that his family had considered Canada as an eventual destination makes the refugee crisis a key election topic.

— Responding to the public outcry, the Conservatives increase available resources for the processing of refugee applications, promise to speed up resettlement of the 10,000 originally promised places and announce they'll match donations for Syrian relief.

— The Liberals say they'll bring in 25,000 government-assisted refugees as soon as possible and encourage the private sector to take in more. They later promise to bring them in by the end of the year.

syrian refugees canada
A local Toronto group put together gift bags for arriving refugees, the bags had items added as people arrive to greet the refugees. Syrian refugees begin to arrive in Canada at Pearson International Airport in Mississauga. Dec. 10, 2015. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

October:

— Justin Trudeau and the Liberals win a majority government and say they remain committed to refugee resettlement.

Nov. 4: The Liberal government is sworn in, repeating its plan to resettle 25,000 Syrians by the end of the year.

Nov. 13: Co-ordinated terror attacks kill 130 people in Paris, casting a pall over the whole Syrian refugee issue.

Nov. 24: The Liberal government admits it won't be able to bring 25,000 refugees in by the end of the year. It says 10,000 will arrive in that period, mostly those with private sponsors, and another 15,000 will be admitted by the end of February. It estimates federal costs at $678 million over six years.

Dec. 10: First government flight of refugees arrives in Toronto.

Dec. 23: The Liberals say the end-of-year target to settle 10,000 is not a guarantee. Say full 25,000 will be in Canada by end of February 2016.

Dec. 31: Liberals say it will take until mid-January to meet the 10,000 goal but expect to have 25,000 in Canada by end of February.

 

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