Immigration Minister John McCallum has made a surprise visit to Lebanon to meet with Syrian refugees and officials working to process their applications.
McCallum went to Debane camp, south of Sidon, a city in southern Lebanon on Friday.
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He toured the Canadian Operations Centre where screening of refugees is done, including biometric collection, medicals, and immigration interviews.
“The work being done on the ground here in Lebanon by Canadians and others is enormous,” McCallum said in a statement.
“We are making a very real difference in the lives of so many Syrian refugees who have gone through such hardship. Those who come to Canada can expect a warm welcome and an opportunity to be successful in their new home.”
At Saida refugee settlement McCallum met with a family of seven approved to relocate to Canada.
During his trip he also led a roundtable discussion with partner agencies and settlement service providers to discuss the challenges facing the screening and settlement process.
There are currently more than one million Syrian refugees in Lebanon. McCallum met with the country’s Minister of the Interior to express support for Lebanon’s efforts providing refuge to so many displaced people.
There are no formal refugee camps in Lebanon, but rather settlements often lacking the most basic necessities.
Canada has committed to welcoming 25,000 Syrian refugees to the country over the next few months; 10,000 of those by the end of the 2015.
“Part of the reason I’m here is to talk to our people on the ground and say, ‘Are we ready to get all those people over to Canada so fast.’ Because there isn’t much time left until the end of the month and we still have some 8 or 9-thousand to bring over,” said McCallum.
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The Liberal government had initially pledged to bring those 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of the year; in late November the feds revised that goal, saying there was no way to properly screen that many people in time.
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McCallum said Friday there are currently around 18,000 people —; all who have come from United Nations lists —; in the application and screening process.
“Our sole criteria is to chose the most vulnerable, irrespective of religion. We don’t mind if they’re Muslim or Christian or whatever. But we chose the most vulnerable to bring to Canada.”