Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Syrian Refugee resettlement in Toronto put on hold

TORONTO - The federal government is briefly hitting the pause button on Syrian resettlement efforts in Toronto and looking for other cities to take in refugees.

Immigration Minister John McCallum revealed Wednesday that resettlement groups in Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver and Halifax have asked for a temporary stop in the flow of government-sponsored refugees. But McCallum also told reporters he believes Canada is still on track to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of February.

The pause means refugees will now remain in hotels for a few extra days after their flights land in Canada.

“The flow from the airplanes is not slowing down at all,” McCallum said during a speech in Toronto.

”It’s just certain towns or cities need a pause. There will be other places in Canada who will receive the refugees.”

The feds are actively seeking more cities to take in government-assisted Syrian refugees.

Mayor John Tory stressed the City of Toronto — which doesn’t have a direct role in resettlement efforts — didn’t ask for the break. The five-day pause was requested by COSTI — the federally-funded agency in charge of resettling refugees in the GTA.

“The government granted that request,” he said. “It will slow down a little bit for a few days, the arrival of refugees in Toronto, mainly on account of concerns about housing.”

A representative from COSTI could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

“The challenges that (Resettlement Assistance Program Service Provider Organizations) are experiencing range from being temporarily understaffed, as they need to hire more people to handle the number of arrivals, to a lack of available and acceptable temporary and permanent housing spaces,” a spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration said. “Despite this, accommodation for a few ... Syrian refugees continue to arrive daily in other destinations across Canada.”

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