A haven no more: Canada's conservative refugee policy

By Al Jazeera, 15 September 2015

Nabil Hawara spent 20 years as a political prisoner in Syria before fleeing the war-torn country with his family as refugees in 2013 in the hope of reaching Canada - and the promise of a brighter future.

Two-and-a-half years later, he's still waiting on bureaucratic red-tape that would reunite him with his wife and children in Montreal.

Canadian immigration rules wouldn't allow Hawara to bring his family along from Turkey after he applied for refugee status, and he now spends his days eager for updates from the government, which hasn't provided a reason why they're not with him. (...)

Canada's strict refugee policies have been criticised after coverage of the current election campaign shifted towards the Syrian refugee crisis.

It began with the heart-breaking images of Alan Kurdi - the three-year-old whose body was washed ashore on a Turkish beach after his family attempted to reach Europe by sea. The family had hoped to go to Canada where a close relative lives.

With the four-year Syrian civil war raging on and sending tens-of-thousands fleeing, the story of the Kurdi family touched many Canadians. (...)

Last January, the government agreed to resettle 11,300 Syrian refugees by the end of 2017. At a campaign stop last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper also said Canada would welcome 10,000 more Syrian and Iraqi refugees over the next few years.

Loly Rico, president of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said she doesn't believe the Canadian government is prioritising the crisis, alleging it has "no willingness" to bring in more Syrian refugees.

In a recent interview, Immigration Minister Chris Alexander described Canada as "the most generous country for refugees in the world". Rico rejected that statement, arguing while Canada has historically been a leader in helping refugees, today this is not the case. (...)

Between January 2014 and August 2015, Canada resettled 2,374 Syrian refugees. Privately sponsored groups in Canada are responsible for more than half of that number: 1,723.

These numbers do not reflect Canada's history with refugees and humanitarian crises. Between 1979 and 1980, Canada airlifted 60,000 Vietnamese refugees. It did the same with 5,000 people from Kosovo in the 1990s. (...)

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Image: Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press

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