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Archived - Resettling refugees faster – without compromising security

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Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has put in place temporary measures to accelerate the processing of applications to sponsor Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

In accelerating processing, our goal is for all Syrian applications received as of today to have a selection decision by the end of December 2015. This will ensure that applicants and their sponsors are aware of the progress on their files. We anticipate meeting the overall commitment of resettling 10,000 Syrians by September 2016. Canada is also on track to fulfill its existing commitment to resettle 23,000 Iraqis by the end of the year.

Streamlining the process

Because most Syrians who have fled their home country in recent years meet the criteria to be considered a refugee, visa officers will be instructed to focus their interview process on security, criminality and medical screening.

Collecting information from a resettlement candidate regarding why they fled their country of origin and the specific nature of persecution they may be facing can take a significant amount of time. Going forward, unless there is evidence to the contrary, visa officers will be able to presume those fleeing the conflict meet the definition of a refugee, which will make processing faster. Refugees will still be required to meet all medical, criminal and security screening requirements and officers will now be able to focus their interview time on screening to protect the health and security of Canadians.

Refugee processing is complex work that includes establishing identity, addressing security concerns and managing logistical challenges that are often outside of a visa officer’s control. Canada purposely seeks to give refuge to the most vulnerable, people who face persecution simply for who they are or what they believe. Interviewing applicants can be complicated by a lack of access, a lack of documentation and difficulties in establishing family relationships.

It is important that visa officers take the time to screen all refugees carefully before they are accepted for resettlement to Canada to make sure that they have not committed any serious crimes and that they are not security risks to Canada.

CIC works with its security partners, such as the Canada Border Services Agency, to complete this work as quickly as possible.

Sharing biometric data collected from persons applying for refugee resettlement to Canada will allow visa officers to establish identities, determine the existence of a criminal record and make sound decisions.

The federal government will continue to work closely with the Government of Quebec to ensure more streamlined administrative processes for the issuance of Certificats de sélection du Quebec.

We anticipate that the above-noted measures to cut red tape without compromising on security will allow Canada to issue visas to thousands more Syrian refugees by the end of this year, and ultimately meeting the commitment to resettle 10,000 Syrians 15 months ahead of schedule. It will also allow for the on-time completion of our existing commitment to resettle 23,000 Iraqis by the end of 2015.

Simplifying the requirements

To make it easier for Canadians to sponsor Syrian and Iraqi refugees from the region, we will temporarily exempt Syrians and Iraqis from the requirement to provide proof of refugee status in order to be sponsored.

Since 2012, Groups of Five (G5) and Community Sponsors have been required to submit, as part of their application, documents issued by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) or a foreign state, certifying an individual’s refugee status. The government will temporarily exempt Syrian and Iraqi refugees from this requirement, which will enable G5 and Community Sponsors to sponsor refugees who have fled the conflict.

Increasing resources

In order to further facilitate processing, Canada has already sent additional experienced visa officers to embassies in the region, and more will arrive in the coming weeks. We will also more than double the number of staff in Canada processing sponsorship applications to ensure additional new applications from Canadians wanting to assist refugees are assessed promptly.

These initiatives build on the changes that the government has undertaken in the last 12 months, such as centralizing the intake and processing of applications for privately sponsored refugees to alleviate the administrative burden at visa offices overseas, re-allocating officers to address backlogs, and increasing resources.

Additionally, the government is identifying a senior official to act as coordinator for Syrian and Iraqi refugees. This individual will liaise with officials of provinces, territories and municipalities, Sponsorship Agreement Holders and other organizations that have expressed an interest in responding to this need. This coordinator will connect Canadians interested in assisting refugees with experienced sponsorship organizations.

The measures outlined above will further reduce processing times which had already been reduced to less than one year in the overwhelming majority of cases. Some cases will remain more complex than others and will be assessed with the necessary rigour and diligence that Canadians expect.

While the additional resources being provided and the policy changes announced today will allow us to significantly speed up the arrival of refugees, the government will not compromise on security, health, and criminality screening. These measures together will amount to an overall investment for Citizenship and Immigration Canada of up to $22.5 million over the next two years, with smaller amounts also being absorbed by security partners and the Department of Foreign Affairs, for a total of up to $25 million.

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