The Canadian government said Thursday it had welcomed more than 6,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2015, failing to reach its already delayed target of taking in 10,000 but vowing to meet that target next month.
According to Immigration Minister John McCallum, Canada is expected to reach that goal by mid-January, and meet its larger target of accepting 25,000 refugees by the end of February.
“It is better to do it well and fast, but doing it well is the highest priority,” McCallum said.
New Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had initially promised to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees by December 31; however, following the deadly November attacks in Paris and criticize that Canada was moving too fast amid security concerns, the government pushed the date to end-February.
McCallum said by the end of Thursday the government will have fully screened 10,700 refugees to come to Canada, fleeing from civil war, bloodshed and violence by the militant group Islamic State.
Canada’s public service is processing about 10 times more refugees a month than usual, said health minister, Jane Philpott. “Had we not set such incredibly audacious goals, I know, I can tell you, we would not be where we are today”, he added.
Yet, this fast pace has raised security concerns. Canada’s government will inevitably cut corners on security screening, security sources said last month, before Ottawa delayed its target the first time.
Once they hit the target of 25,000 by the end of February, McCallum said he expects Canada to bring in at least 10,000 more in 2016, for a total of 35,000 to 50,000 refugees helped by the government and private sponsors.
Canada takes in an average of 250,000 refugees from around the world each year. Even so, this country has been praised as a humanitarian example by international aid agencies this month.