The first planeload of airlifted Syrian refugees, expected to be carrying around 160 people, is scheduled to arrive in Toronto by Thursday evening at 9:15 p.m. and the second will follow two days later in Montreal.
Prime Minister Trudeau confirmed the details on Wednesday during question period in the House of Commons.
According to a report in the Guardian, Trudeau said,
“Resettling refugees demonstrates our commitment to Canadians and the world that Canada understands that we can and must do more,”
This is the first time that Syrian refugees will be airlifted to Canada. They have been arriving in Canada for months via commercial aircraft between November 4 and end of last week. Thursday marks the start of the massive resettlement program the Liberals promised during their election campaign.
According to Canada’s immigration and citizenship website, 416 Syrian refugees have arrived in Canada since Nov 4, 2015, which include 74 government-assisted, 51 blended visa office-referred, and 291 privately sponsored refugees.
The preliminary budget for the program is $698 million. McCallum announced Wednesday that the resettlement agencies will be getting a $3.6 million boost to their budgets this year to cope with the influx of Syrians.
Canada has issued 1,451 permanent visas to Syrian refugees and is interviewing an average of 800 per day in Jordan and Lebanon, Immigration Minister John McCallum said Wednesday.
The officials are still hopeful that the federal government can reach its amended target of bringing in 10,000, most of them privately sponsored, by the end of the year, with another 15,000 following in the early months of 2016.
McCallum stated, “A certain number of individuals have been identified, but we are not nearly as far advanced in Turkey as in the other countries, but you see, we never put all our eggs in one basket. We always had three countries with which we were working from the beginning, and if one country produces more, another may produce less, but putting the three together, we are certainly working very hard to realize our targets.”
The UNHCR has been instrumental in Canada’s push to bring in Syrians, identifying refugees and referring them to Canadian officials after initial interviews. It sent 43,539 text messages to refugees in Jordan and 15,662 messages to refugees in Lebanon. In Turkey, the Government of Turkey has taken the responsibility for communicating and registering Syrian refugees. This is in addition to the phone calls and personally attending to the refugees arriving at the UNHCR center to obtain additional information on coming to Canada, resulting in the refugees being referred for an interview.
Difficulties in getting the program off the ground include getting the United Nations to find enough cases to refer to Canada for possible resettlement, technical hiccups regarding biometric screening equipment, and diplomatic wrangling with governments over exit visas.
McCallum admitted that the officials appear to have come to a solution with the government of Lebanon over issuing the refugees’ exit visas. But he also noted Lebanon is scheduled to hold an election on Thursday, making the Canadian officials vigilant of the developments. The most progress is being made out of the government’s operations in Jordan, where hundreds of Syrian refugees a day are now being screened by security and health officers. Getting the Syrians out of Turkey has been more difficult because of the recent election there.
The Globe And Mail reported that the immigration official fear that there might be a reluctance on the part of many of the displaced Syrians to travel half way around the world to make a new life in Canada. Difficulties faced by the Syrian refugees include making a quick move, having to sell their property or get other family members out of Syria before they can to pick up stakes in the Middle East. But they are still hopeful and said that there are large numbers of people for whom Canada will provide a wanted refuge.
The new Syrian refugees will also be eligible for the basic provincial health coverage that is provided to all Canadians plus supplements for drug coverage, eyeglasses, dentistry, and other medical needs that is available to Canadians who are on social assistance.