Identifying Syrian refugees to come to Canada
Canada worked with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to identify people in Jordan and Lebanon, where they have an extensive list of registered refugees.
To reduce security risks and still provide a new home for refugees, we gave priority to vulnerable refugees who were a low security risk, such as women at risk and complete families. This was in line with Canada’s overall approach to refugee resettlement.
As refugees in Jordan and Lebanon were identified, the UNHCR contacted them by SMS (text message) to see if they were interested in being resettled to Canada. Those who were interested were referred to Canadian officials for processing after the UNHCR confirmed their identity using an iris scan.
We used a similar process in Turkey, where refugees are registered with the state and not the UNHCR.
Several thousand applications we had in queue for privately sponsored refugees and government-assisted refugees were processed as part of this initiative.
UNHCR outreach activities
By the end of 2015, the UNHCR:
- Sent 61,391 text messages to potential applicants to see if they wanted to come to Canada
- 45,729 in Jordan
- 15,662 in Lebanon
- phoned 69,775 refugees to invite them to the UNHCR centre to find out more about coming to Canada
- 60,109 in Jordan
- 9,666 in Lebanon.
During the same time period:
- 23,859 refugees went to the UNHCR centre for information on coming to Canada (15,647 in Jordan and 8,212 in Lebanon)
- 16,005 refugees were referred to us for an interview (11,005 from Jordan and 5,000 from Lebanon).
Security and health screening
Each Syrian refugee went through robust, multi-layered screening before they came to Canada. This included collecting biometrics.
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