Backgrounder Article from  Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada

#WelcomeRefugees to Canada

Resettling refugees is a proud and important part of Canada’s humanitarian tradition. It reflects our commitment to Canadians and demonstrates to the world that we have a shared responsibility to help people who are displaced and persecuted.

As millions of Syrians continue to be displaced due to conflict in their home country, the Government of Canada will work with Canadians, including private sponsors, non-governmental organizations, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees. This is in addition to the 3,089 Syrian refugees who have already arrived in Canada from January 1, 2014, to November 3, 2015.

The government’s commitment to bringing in Syrian refugees will continue in 2016. Given the current initiative includes privately sponsored refugees, more government-assisted refugees (GARs) will be resettled to meet a specific target of 25,000 GARs.

Protecting the safety, security, and health of Canadians and refugees is a key factor in guiding the Government of Canada’s plan to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees as quickly as possible, while also taking the time to do it right.

By December 31, the government will identify all 25,000 refugees to come to Canada. Of those selected, the goal is to have 10,000 Syrian refugees arrive in Canada by the end of this year, with the remainder arriving by the end of February 2016.

The longer timeframe will allow for the completion of the immigration process overseas, including full health and security screening. It will also allow more time to work with provincial, municipal, and other partners to ensure we are prepared to welcome and integrate these refugees properly in our communities. It will cost less than bringing in refugees more quickly, and housing them temporarily to complete processing.

This plan, which will be implemented in five phases, is intended to provide rapid protection for vulnerable Syrian refugees while continuing to protect the health and safety of Canadians.

The Government of Canada will deliver on this commitment and complex initiative by working with the governments of Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, along with international and Canadian partners. In Canada and overseas, a number of federal departments and agencies are involved in implementing this plan.

This is a time for Canadians to come together as we open our hearts and communities to welcome refugees to their new home. Learn more about how to get involved by visiting our website at

Phase 1: Identifying Syrian refugees to come to Canada

Canada will work with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to identify people in Jordan and Lebanon, where they have an extensive list of registered refugees.

In an effort to minimize security risks and provide a new home for vulnerable refugees, Canada has asked the UNHCR to prioritize vulnerable refugees who are a low security risk, such as women at risk and complete families. This is consistent with Canada’s overall approach to refugee resettlement.

As refugees in Jordan and Lebanon are identified, the UNHCR will be contacting them by SMS (text message) to determine if they are interested in being resettled to Canada. Those who express interest will be referred to Canadian officials for processing, following a confirmation of their identity by the UNHCR using an iris scan.

Canada continues to work with the Government of Turkey, where refugees are registered with the state and not the UNHCR, on a similar process.

The government also has several thousand applications already in process for privately sponsored refugees (PSRs) and government-assisted refugees (GARs) as part of this initiative.

Phase 2: Selecting and processing Syrian refugees overseas

Interested refugees will be scheduled for processing in dedicated visa offices in Amman and Beirut. Visa processing capacity will also be enhanced in Turkey.

Approximately 500 officials, including temporary visa officers, are being deployed to staff these offices.

An interview will be scheduled with professional, experienced visa officers who will collect information to facilitate issuing visas. Not all applicants interviewed will be selected as part of this initiative but their application may be re-considered in the future.

Immigration processing will be completed overseas. This includes full immigration medical examination, including screening for communicable diseases such as tuberculosis. Security screening will include collecting biographical information, and biometrics, such as fingerprints and digital photos, which will be checked against immigration, law enforcement and security databases.

Upon completion of the screening, refugees will be given permanent resident visas and preparations will be made for their transportation to Canada.

Phase 3: Transportation to Canada

Beginning in December, transportation via privately chartered aircraft, with military aircraft assisting if needed, will be organized to help bring refugees to Canada.

Flights will be destined to either Montréal or Toronto. These cities naturally have the capacity to accept a large number of flights daily, and the necessary facilities and services available to process this volume of refugees for a short time.

Prior to refugees departing for Canada, the CBSA will confirm the identity of the individual refugee.

Phase 4: Welcoming in Canada

Upon arrival in Canada, all refugees will be welcomed and processed by Border Services Officers (BSOs) for admission into Canada. This will include final verification of identity.  

All refugees will be screened for signs of illness when they arrive in Canada, as per the Quarantine Act and treatment will be available if anyone is ill upon arrival. After being admitted into Canada by BSOs, refugees who came to Canada as privately sponsored refugees will then continue directly to the community where their private sponsor is located.

Significant work is underway to ensure communities across the country are ready to accept government assisted Syrian refugees. These refugees will be matched with communities where there are already settlement supports in place, with consideration given to whether they have family members in Canada, as well as the availability of schools, housing, language training, and other similar factors.

After arriving, most government assisted refugees will continue on to their new home communities across Canada. However, for those whose final destination has not yet been determined, temporary accommodation will be provided before they are moved to new host communities across Canada. This period of temporary accommodation will give additional time for Canadian officials to work with provinces, territories, and settlement service providers to determine which communities will become home to these refugees.

Phase 5: Settlement and community integration

Syrian refugees will be transported to communities across Canada, where they will begin to build a new life for themselves and their family. They will be provided with immediate, essential services and long-term settlement support to ensure their successful settlement and integration into Canadian society.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is working with settlement partners, private sponsors, provincial, territorial and municipal governments to coordinate and welcome these refugees into their new communities. Support that will be available includes orientation to life in Canada, access to healthcare, permanent housing, counselling, language services, schooling and other federal, provincial, territorial and municipal support services.

Syrians being resettled to Canada will be processed as either GARs or PSRs.

Support for GARs is provided by the Government of Canada and seeks to align with provincial and territorial social assistance rates. This support covers items such as clothing, food, shelter and basic household needs, including household goods, linen, and furniture.

Refugees arriving in Quebec receive similar support items, but these are provided by the province.

PSRs are supported by sponsors who agree to provide them with care, lodging, settlement assistance, and social support. Normally, a private sponsor supports a refugee for 12 months, starting from the refugee’s arrival in Canada or until the refugee becomes self-sufficient, whichever comes first


The Government of Canada will invest up to $678 million over six years toward expediting the resettlement and ensuring integration support for these Syrian refugees. This amount is estimation, including contingencies, of the work required of the Government of Canada and our partners to fulfill this commitment and includes amounts for partners such as the Canadian Red Cross. This funding will be closely monitored, controlled and reported on to Canadians.

($ millions)
Phase 1 Identification 17 - 21
Phase 2 Processing 36 - 46
Phase 3 Transportation 94 - 121
Phase 4 Welcoming in Canada 61 - 77
Phase 5 Settlement and Integration 325 - 377
Supporting Activities Corporate Support 31 - 36
TOTAL $564 - 678

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