Canada Immigration Lawyers Weigh In
In Canada, immigration lawyers were pleased with the Liberal government’s promise to accept and support 25,000 Syrian refugees by 2016 in addition to the 10,000 who will be sponsored privately. While it was a step in the right direction, it’s facing a considerable problem – a large percentage of Syrian refugees seem reluctant about immigration to Canada, a country quite far away and vastly different from their own. Initial contact with Syrians by the UN in November showed that only 6.3 percent were interested in immigration to Canada. Many refugees have indicated that they would like to stay in or near the Middle East, in hopes of an impending resolution to the conflict that has inflicted the area for the past four years.
Besides wanting to be close to home, many Syrians are also afraid about what will happen when they do arrive. In particular, there are concerns about learning a new language and finding work. As Paul Clarke, executive director of Action Réfugiés Montreal said, “The decision to cross an ocean forever is obviously a major one, and not one that people necessarily want to make.”
Despite this reluctance, Immigration Minister John McCallum says he is not worried about Syrian immigration to Canada and meeting the government’s quota. “There’s about four millions refugees that we can draw on. And so if a smaller percentage wants to come, we just contact more,” he said. But while the government insists interest has grown even since November, immigration lawyers have not been given any data to back up this claim.
While the numbers likely still remain relatively low in Canada, immigration lawyers are hopeful that initial settlements will help pique interest among other refugees. According to Alexandra Kotyk, project manager for Lifeline Syria, “Once reporting gets back from a community that has been resettled here – with people reporting back that this is a good place – then they will start to want to come in bigger numbers.”
Though hesitation may certainly stall Syrian immigration in Canada, there’s still another issue at hand – where the relocations will take place. With the government still unable to pinpoint exact geographical targets, there are concerns that many refugees will opt to resettle mostly in already-big cities. However, government officials have vowed to put as much care as possible into the distribution of this mass immigration to Canada by considering factors such as whether they have family settled and/or specific health needs. Officials have also said they will individualize each city’s target.