Canada will take in an additional 10,000 Syrian refugees, adding to the more than 25,000 already received in the last few months, Immigration Minister John McCallum said on Thursday in Germany, where an influx of refugees has sparked a backlash.
McCallum told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp he was responding to complaints from Canadian groups who want to sponsor Syrian refugees but did not have their applications processed quickly enough to be among the government’s initial target of 25,000.
“We are doing everything we can to accommodate the very welcomed desire on the part of Canadians to sponsor refugees,” McCallum said in a phone interview with CBC News from Berlin, where he is meeting with the German interior minister.
The Liberal government won election in October 2015 pledging to bring in more Syrian refugees more quickly than the previous Conservative government. Private groups including church, family and community organizations had lined up to sponsor Syrian families.
The welcome contrasts sharply to Europe, where resettlement has sparked an anti-migrant backlash amid security fears.
While there have been some delays finding permanent housing for refugees arriving in Canada, particularly in large cities like Toronto where the housing market is tight, the resettlement program has been mostly smooth.
A poll released last month showed Canadians were divided over whether to accept more Syrian refugees.
A total of 26,200 Syrian refugees had arrived in Canada as of March 28, according to the Immigration Department. But nearly 16,000 more applications are in process or have been finalized, even though the refugees have not yet arrived, according to official figures.
McCallum said he has instructed bureaucrats to extend the deadline for submitting sponsorship applications to Thursday from the initial March 1 deadline, which should allow the department to process the backlog.
(Reporting by Andrea Hopkins; Editing by Tom Brown)