What it takes to bring a Syrian refugee to Canada: Paperwork, interrogations and up to 18 months

The numbers are a hot-button issue. But whether Canada lets in 10,000 or 100,000 refugees fleeing the continuing crisis in Syria, the process is largely the same — slow. In the last 20 months, for example, only 2,374 of the many thousands we have promised safe haven in Canada have actually made it here. Postmedia’s Alia Dharssi deconstructs the holdups,  er, “process.”


The first step toward Canadian refuge is certification by the country you have landed in or by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. You will, however, have to get in line: the Zaatari camp in Jordan, as just one example, houses more than 80,000 people. Your status may also depend on your background. For example, if you’re Kurdish, you can’t get UN registration done in Turkey, the landing pad for about 1.9 million refugees.


Your papers all check out, according to some: now it’s Canada’s turn to decide if you’re the refugee you say you are. This is done by Canadian visa officers abroad — usually in the middle of nowhere, and often without the documentation applicants need. “Just imagine you’re doing all this in a camp-like situation and there are thousands of people, therefore we have all this paperwork,” says Ratna Omidvar, chair of Lifeline Syria and a professor at Ryerson University.

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