De­lays in refugee ar­rivals likely in wake of failed coup d’état

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - STEPHANIE LEVITZ

OT­TAWA — De­lays in the re­set­tle­ment of Syr­ian refugees from Turkey to Canada are likely to grow even longer af­ter a failed coup at­tempted there.

Se­cur­ing exit per­mits for Syr­i­ans in Turkey has been a dif­fi­cult process al­ready, hold­ing up the Lib­eral govern­ment’s plans last fall to re­set­tle thou­sands of peo­ple from there as part of their land­mark pro­gram to bring 25,000 Syr­i­ans to Canada in a mat­ter of months.

Now, po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity in the coun­try in the wake of the mil­i­tary’s failed ef­forts to seize power July 15 is ex­pected to de­lay things more.

“We are con­tin­u­ing to work with the govern­ment of Turkey to ob­tain exit per­mits as quickly as pos­si­ble and are con­tin­u­ing to mon­i­tor the sit­u­a­tion,” said So­nia Lesage, a spokesper­son for the Im­mi­gra­tion Depart­ment.

“How­ever, given re­cent events, we do ex­pect de­lays.”

There are an es­ti­mated 549 Syr­ian refugees in Turkey who have been ap­proved to come to Canada but haven’t been cleared to travel, and a fur­ther 3,815 ap­pli­ca­tions from that coun­try are in progress.

Among them are sev­eral Yazidi fam­i­lies, a Kur­dish mi­nor­ity group whose plight is the sub­ject this week of hear­ings at the House of Com­mons im­mi­gra­tion com­mit­tee.

Their treat­ment at the hands of Is­lamic mil­i­tants was re­cently termed a geno­cide by the United Na­tions hu­man rights panel, and MPs heard graphic tes­ti­mony Tues­day about some of those atroc­i­ties.

Na­dia Murad Basee Taha re­counted liv­ing in Iraq as mil­i­tants chased her com­mu­nity up the Sin­jar moun­tains in 2014, a siege that saw thou­sands killed and taken hostage.

“When they took us, the girls and chil­dren, we were not sim­ply held pris­oner. They com­mit­ted crimes against us, they forced us to change our re­li­gion, they raped us, they sold us,” she told the com­mit­tee, through a trans­la­tor.

“This con­tin­ues to­day against more than 3,000 women and chil­dren.”

That sit­u­a­tion is why the Con­ser­va­tives ar­gue the Lib­er­als should now fast­track the re­set­tle­ment of Yazidis to Canada.

Ef­forts to get Yazidis out of Turkey have al­ready been met with lengthy de­lays in part be­cause of the Turk­ish govern­ment’s slow ap­provals process for exit per­mits.

Un­like in other coun­tries, it is the Turk­ish govern­ment and not the United Na­tions refugee agency that man­ages Syr­ian refugees. There are an es­ti­mated 2.7 mil­lion in that coun­try.

Be­fore the failed coup, the Im­mi­gra­tion Depart­ment web­site said refugee ap­pli­ca­tions from Turkey needed about eight months for pro­cess­ing.

Still, that’s much shorter than the cur­rent wait time for pri­vately spon­sored refugees out of Iraq, where thou­sands of Yazidis live in the north­ern part of the coun­try, Kur­dis­tan.

It takes about four years to process pri­vately-spon­sored ap­pli­ca­tions out of Iraq, the depart­ment web­site says.

And the sit­u­a­tion of the Yazidis in Iraq is fur­ther com­pli­cated by the fact the UN doesn’t re­fer peo­ple who live in­side their home coun­tries else­where for re­set­tle­ment. The UN also doesn’t ex­plic­itly use re­li­gion or eth­nic­ity as a fac­tor in de­ter­min­ing whether some­one is el­i­gi­ble for re­set­tle­ment.

The Con­ser­va­tives want that changed but the Lib­er­als have said they in­tend to con­tinue work­ing with the UN. The Tories are also call­ing on the Lib­er­als to lift the cap on the num­ber of refugee ap­pli­ca­tions be­ing ac­cepted from Iraq this year to make it eas­ier for pri­vate spon­sors to bring in Yazidis.

Af­ter Taha es­caped her cap­tors in the fall of 2014, she was brought to Ger­many un­der that coun­try’s refugee re­set­tle­ment pro­gram.

She told the com­mit­tee she then trav­elled to 17 coun­tries, speak­ing to presidents and par­lia­ments, try­ing to get peo­ple to lis­ten to what hap­pened.

“The world is sim­ply silent,” she said.

LEFTERIS PITARAKIS, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pro-govern­ment sup­port­ers wave Turk­ish flags Tues­day as they protest the at­tempted coup, in Is­tan­bul. The tur­moil likely means longer waits for refugees to leave.

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