Canada has said it will not boost its refugee intake in 2017, despite widespread calls for Ottawa to take action to counter US President Donald Trump’s executive order barring entry to refugees and immigrants from seven countries in the Middle East and Africa.
Canada plans to resettle 40,000 refugees and protected persons in the country this year, both through government support and private sponsorship.
“Our immigration levels plan has an allocation that is historically high for refugees,” said Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Ahmed Hussen earlier this week. “We intend to maintain that plan.”
But human rights groups and refugee advocates are calling on Canada to lift its cap on refugee sponsorship in 2017, especially in light of curbs to immigration south of the border.
Passed last Friday, Trump’s executive orderblocks immigration from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Sudan and Somalia for 90 days, suspends the US refugee programme for 120 days, and indefinitely bars Syrian refugees from being resettled until such a time that is “consistent with the national interest”.
The so-called “Muslim ban” has stranded travelers and visa- and green card-holders, and separated families.
“There’s obviously a very immediate and urgent concern that hundreds or even thousands of refugees have suddenly been left in the lurch, individuals who thought they were well on their way to being resettled in the United States,” said Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada.
“Canada is very well placed to step in and ensure that another avenue to safety opens,” Neve told Al Jazeera.
Over the weekend, as confusion reigned in airports around the world, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was praised after he tweeted: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada”.
But Canada has already reached its cap of 1,000 new private sponsorship applications for Syrian and Iraqi refugees this year and the government does not plan to lift it.
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