OTTAWA — The federal government appears likely to miss its target of resettling 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year.
An analysis of current statistics and flight schedules on the Immigration department’s website suggests approximately 6,300 Syrians will have arrived in Canada by Dec. 31, if all the listed government flights arrive and no further ones are added.
That doesn’t include any Syrians arriving on commercial flights on Wednesday or Thursday.
Immigration Minister John McCallum and Health Minister Jane Philpott are scheduled to hold a briefing in Toronto on Thursday to discuss the resettlement plan.
As of Dec. 29, a total of 4,420 Syrians had arrived in Canada since Nov. 4, the department says, which includes those who’ve come on government and commercial flights.
There were seven government flights expected to arrive in the final two days of the year, carrying around 1,900 people; the government does not provide details on refugees travelling commercially.
Bureaucrats in Canada and abroad have been working nearly around the clock in recent weeks to get the Liberal government as close to its goal as possible but McCallum moved to lower expectations last week that the target would be met, saying a host of factors, including possible weather delays, meant it wasn’t a guarantee.
Storms did delay at least two government flights this week.
It was unclear from data available Wednesday whether the government would meet another revised goal — how many refugees would be approved to come to Canada by year end.
In November, they had said all 25,000 would be chosen by Dec. 31, but last week the government said they were now aiming to have at least the 10,000 applications approved by that date.
As of Dec. 29, 8,593 Syrians in total have passed through the expedited screening programs set up in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon in recent weeks that included interviews, security checks and medical exams.
The Liberals are only counting those Syrians who arrived in Canada after they were sworn into power on Nov. 4 as part of their goal.
The promise to resettle 10,000 Syrians by Dec. 31 had started out as a campaign commitment to resettle 25,000 people in the same time frame, and all of them were expected to be refugees assisted by the government.
But that plan was amended in November to set a new goal that 10,000 people would be here by year’s end, and most of them privately-sponsored. The remaining 15,000 government-assisted refugees are to arrive by the end of February.
On top of that, the Liberals say they will bring at least another 10,000 government-assisted refugees to Canada by the end of the 2016.
Getting the program up and running was the biggest challenge but now that it is operating, the remaining deadlines are achievable, Immigration Minister John McCallum said last week.
"This is like a wave. It starts slow, and it builds up," he said.
"And once the wave builds to maximum level, large numbers of refugees are able to fly across the ocean to Canada. And so one thing I can say with certainty is that our fundamental target will be hit, that is to say well before the end of February, 25,000 Syrian refugees will have landed in Canada as permanent residents. So I am very confident that that target will be achieved. "
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