Canadian Refugee-Processing Centre Opens in Jordan
The capital city of Jordan, Amman, has seen a trickle of refugees flow into Canada’s processing centre on Sunday. These refugees are looking to leave Jordan and they were present on the first day of processing. This centre will become the hub of Canada’s Syrian refugee resettlement program.
Ninety people have already been put through the multi-step process and under the eye of three Canadian federal cabinet ministers who travelled to the capital to see the plan. Canada has planned that by the end of February they will have 25 000 refugees settled in Canada.
“We have learned also there is positive things to report in terms of progress,” said Immigration Minister John McCallum as he stood in the cavernous military exhibition facility now being leased to Canada by the Jordanian government.
“The processing centre had its first day of operation today, that will ramp up over time and get more intense. We also heard the good news that exit permits are not an issue in Jordan, so that’s positive.”
McCallaum was joined by Health Minister Jane Philpott and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan. They flew to Amman late Saturday and spent the day meeting UN officials and Jordanian leaders on Sunday. They then flew straight back to Ottawa.
Canadian reporters were not permitted to report on the trip until they had left the country and officials said that this was for security reasons. But while the ministers were in Amman, UN officials and the Jordanian King Abdullah II posted about the trip and photos to Twitter.
The refugee cases that are being processed at the Jordanian centre are only some of the 15 000 Syrians the government is seeking to resettle itself. The applicants are being told that they can expect to travel by the end of February, a deadline which the government has set. McCallum has said that this is an achievable goal.
“Let’s be optimistic,” he said.
Flights will be departing from a civilian airport across the way from the centre and the planes will not only be carrying refugees from Jordan, but also Lebanon.
“This being the first day there are a few kinks to work out and we also want to look at how to improve things,” he said.
An immigration official who briefed the ministers continuously noted that plans often changed and developed. The centre’s goal is to process 500 people a day, the workload will be a challenge.
The reception point is ready, with rows of chairs waiting to be filled and interview booths ready. The military has 10 biometric machines ready to go but only four were operational on Sunday. However, the main problem at the moment is the capacity for medical screenings. In the meantime officials are scheduling medical appointments elsewhere until they can beef up availability of services on the site. There are two options, the International Organisation for Migration or the Red Cross could set up clinics or the military could deploy a field hospital.
Privately sponsored refugees currently make up the majority of the 10 000 people the government says it will resettle by the end of the year. These refugees will not have their cases flow through the registration centre but their flights will more than likely depart from the same airport. These planes could begin leaving as early as next week.
The cases are being handled by hundreds of Canadian civil servants and soldiers that are now in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Refugees that have been selected by the UN refugee agency from a pool that the international body is actively looking to resettle. It is estimated that 4 million people have been declared refugees from the Syrian War.
Some of the refugees will come from the Zaatari camp that the ministers visited on Sunday. They were briefed by the camp manager and aid organisations on the challenges that they face. These challenges include water shortages and food supplies for the camps 80 000 residents.
“While obviously we’re all thinking about 25,000 who will come to Canada, we need to remember there are more than a million refugees living here in the country,” she said.
Philpott will have a personal reminder to take back with her as she and Sajjan both bought paintings done by children at the camp. Philpott bought a painting done by 13 year old Hamza, it depicts a woman climbing a flight of stairs with a yellow sun setting and a blood red sky. On her back she carries a burden, it is in the shape of Syria. Philpott asked Hamza who the woman was, and he said that it was no one in particular, just all women.
“Because women do carry countries on their backs,” Philipott said.
This is yet another indication that Canada is serious about the promises made by the Liberal party and the Syrian refugee crisis. Trudeau and his ministers are working hard to fulfill their promise of getting 25 000 Syrian refugees to Canada.