Accessibility/Mobile Features
Skip Navigation
Skip to Content
Editorial News
Classified Sites

The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

UN asks Ottawa to open its doors for refugees of Syria's brutal civil war

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres, speaks from the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Mafraq, Jordan, on May 4, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Mohammad Hannon

Enlarge Image

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres, speaks from the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Mafraq, Jordan, on May 4, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Mohammad Hannon

OTTAWA - The United Nations refugee agency is knocking on Canada's door in search of countries willing to welcome some of the 100,000 people displaced by the Syrian civil war.

The UN's High Commissioner for Refugees met with federal Immigration Minister Chris Alexander on Wednesday as part of a tour that includes Europe and the United States.

Antonio Guterres said Thursday he hoped he had made some progress with Alexander.

"We hope that there will be, at the right moment, a positive response," he said.

Guterres also met with NDP MP Paul Dewar, who acknowledged the high commissioner's concerns.

"He said he came here...to raise the issue with Canada because he thinks we can do more."

Dewar said he believes Canada could accommodate 5,000 of the 100,000 Syrians who are expected to flee the Middle East.

The Canadian government has already agreed to accept 1,300 Syrian refugees who fled the Middle Eastern conflict, but Ottawa remains far from meeting that goal.

Alexander's office said the federal government is trying to reach the target.

"We are committed to resettling 1,300 Syrians by the end of 2014, with 1,100 places allocated to the private sponsorship of refugees," Codie Taylor, Alexander's communications director, said in an email.

"We have started to resettle the most vulnerable Syrians and are actively working to meet our existing commitments."

Guterres said much more needs to be done to help ease the massive burden on Syria's neighbours, including Lebanon.

He says Syrians now make up more than one-quarter of the population in Lebanon, where more than one million Syrians are registered with the UN refugee agency.

Lebanon's infrastructures have failed to keep up with the influx of Syrians, leading to overcrowded schools and hospitals, he noted.

The Syrian Canadian Council insists none of the 1,300 refugees are in Canada yet, noting that 200 refugees sponsored by the federal government have still not made it across the ocean.

The group says private sponsorship is almost impossible.

"The obstacles are enormous," group spokesman Faisal Alazem said in a telephone interview. The delays are too long and the financial requirements too high, he added.

"We hope Antonio Guterres...will really push the government to make a political decision to accelerate the process."

However, he admitted he is not optimistic. His organization has asked in vain to meet with Alexander. Setting up a meeting with the previous minister, Jason Kenney, took two years and produced nothing, he added.

A spokesman for Action Refugies, a Montreal-based support group, said it would like to see the federal government respond to Guterres.

"The number of 5,000 doesn't seem illogical given that the UNHCR says the (crisis) is the biggest they've seen," said Paul Clarke, the group's director.

But he's no more optimistic than Alazem.

"I'd be happy but surprised" to see Canada open its doors, especially considering the problems encountered in bringing in the 1,300 people already targeted, Clarke said in a telephone interview.

Meanwhile, Guterres said the burden must be shared in what he called an emergency situation.

"We need the international community to demonstrate to (Syria's neighbours) that they have support," he said, noting the "giant" Syrian presence in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan.

  • Rate this Rate This Star Icon
  • This article has not yet been rated.
  • We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high. If you thought it was well written, do the same. If it doesn’t meet your standards, mark it accordingly.

    You can also register and/or login to the site and join the conversation by leaving a comment.

    Rate it yourself by rolling over the stars and clicking when you reach your desired rating. We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high.

Sort by: Newest to Oldest | Oldest to Newest | Most Popular 0 Commentscomment icon

You can comment on most stories on brandonsun.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is register and/or login and you can join the conversation and give your feedback.

There are no comments at the moment. Be the first to post a comment below.

Post Your Commentcomment icon

Comment
  • You have characters left

The Brandon Sun does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. Comments are moderated before publication. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

Brandon Sun Business Directory
Sudden Surge: Flood of 2014
Opportunity Magazine — The Bakken
Why Not Minot?
Welcome to Winnipeg

Social Media