Canada officially welcomed its 25,000th Syrian refugee this week, reaching its resettlement goal with two days to spare. The product of a heroic effort between the Canadian private sector and government, the four-month resettlement totals are more than what Canada took in all of 2014.
The success of the Canadian resettlement operation is particularly pronounced when compared with the underwhelming American effort. The United States plans to accept only 10,000 Syrians in 2016. In contrast, Canada is demonstrating how to deal with the Syrian refugee crisis in a responsible, cost-effective, and humanitarian way. American lawmakers should take notice.
The devastation in Syria is staggering. Over 12 million Syrians have been forced to leave their homes since 2011. Life expectancy has plummeted by 20 years, from 76 to 56 years. New data from the International Organization for Migration finds that refugees are arriving in Europe at higher rates in 2016 than in 2015. Mass displacement is the new reality, and changes must be made to refugee policy in order for nations to adapt to the changing world.
Canada recognized the important of playing a part in helping displaced Syrians. The final numbers for the effort speak volumes about the philanthropic spirit of the Canadian people. In total, 253 communities accepted at least one Syrian. There were 98 flights carrying refugees to Canada, 56 to Toronto and 42 to Montreal. Here’s a map of final destinations.
After hitting their goal, the rapid resettlement pace will now slow but will still churn out new refugees at a far faster rate than America’s. Canada’s resettlement process is not close to being finished. About 2,600 applications have already been finalized and refugees are awaiting travel. And 12,500 refugee applications are in progress, the majority of which are emerging from processing centers in Lebanon.
Those numbers alone would bring the 2016 total to about 40,000, and this is not even taking into account any new privately sponsored refugees. Details on their efforts for the rest of the year are expected from Canadian immigration officials next week. Early estimates indicate up to 50,000 Syrians could call Canada home by the end of the year.
Immigration Minister John McCallum said: “The last few months have been something unique and totally different from anything the government has ever done.” While Canada has long been a leader in refugee resettlement, their current effort in such a small time frame is their most impressive initiative yet.
In comparison, the U.S. response to the refugee crisis Canada’s is troubling. The U.S. population is 10 times that of Canada’s and has a large philanthropic sector but will settle significantly less Syrians.
As I have written before, Canada was able to ramp up their admissions so aggressively due to three reasons: overflowing compassion from the Canadian people and lawmakers, a streamlined refugee screening process, and the utilization of private refugee sponsorship.
The use of private refugee sponsorship is especially telling as an example in cost-effective public-private partnerships. Forty-three percent of those refugees, 10,999 people, were resettled by the private sector either partially or fully. This means that Canada’s churches, foundations, and individuals resettled more Syrian refugees in the past four months than the American government will in 12.
The Niskanen Center has been calling for the U.S. to launch privately-funded refugee resettlement since 2015. It will increase our refugee intake capacity, empower private sector actors to become more involved in the refugee process, and—most importantly—save lives.
Kudos to Canada for its excellent work in welcoming 25,000 Syrians to their new home. We hope that American lawmakers recognize the severity of the refugee crisis, and take into serious consideration the available public policy options they have to stem the crisis.