OTTAWA: Canada has welcomed its 10,000th Syrian refugee, the government announced Wednesday, although almost two weeks behind schedule and far fewer than it had originally planned to resettle by now.
A planeload landed in Toronto late Tuesday, putting the number of arrivals of asylum seekers at 10,121 since November when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals took office.
In a statement, Immigration Minister John McCallum called it a “significant milestone” on the way to meeting the Liberal’s overall pledge to take in 25,000 Syrians.
“Many people have worked day and night to bring these refugees to Canada,” he said, “and Canadians have opened their communities and their hearts to welcome them.
“Canada continues to set an international example with its response to the worst refugee crisis of our time.”
Trudeau had promised during an election campaign last year to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees by December 31.
But after assuming power the target date was pushed to the end of February, following criticism that the government was moving too fast amid security concerns in the aftermath of deadly attacks in Paris, as well as due to logistical issues.
A new interim target of taking in 10,000 by December 31 was set, but only 6,000 Syrians travelling from camps in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey made it onto Canadian soil by year’s end.
The UN refugee agency estimates that more than four million Syrians have fled the civil war ravaging their country. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights puts the total number of dead at more than 260,000 people.