Up to 70 Iraqi refugees expected this month

  • September 8, 2013

TORONTO - While the Syrian refugee crisis grows, Toronto parishes continue to welcome Iraqi refugees. The archdiocese of Toronto’s Office for Refugees is expecting between 60 and 70 Iraqis to land here over the course of September.

Exact dates for landings are difficult to predict because refugees fly on the left-over capacity of unsold airline seats, said ORAT executive director Martin Mark. Given the instability in the region, ORAT has set up a system for notifying parishes when their refugee families will be arriving, and when those flights have been cancelled.

More than 60 refugees in one month is an unusually high number which leads Mark to guess Immigration Canada has sped up processing of Iraqi refugees because of the Syrian crisis.

While ORAT worries that flights out of Damascus, the Syrian capital, may stop and the Canadian embassy in Beirut may send staff home or close up entirely, the organization is anxious to welcome as many refugees as possible while the planes are still flying, Mark said.

“CIC is working to continue to process as many Iraqi refugees as possible to deliver on its commitment to resettle 20,000 in Canada by 2015,” said an Immigration Canada spokesperson. “Since 2009, over 16,000 Iraqis have arrived through both private and government sponsorships.”

The majority have come through private sponsorships, mainly Church-affiliated groups.

Following a visit to Lebanon and Jordan in July, Mark has developed a list of 200 Syrian Christian families ready for resettlement in Canada. Parishes willing to take responsibility for resettling a family can contact ORAT at (416) 645-0827.

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