Canada's ambitious plan to take in 25,000 Syrian refugees may not be open to single and unaccompanied men in the wake of the recent Paris attacks. The country is now likely to grant asylum only to women, children and families, although gay men if accompanied by their partners may be allowed.
Although there has been no official statement of this policy, an announcement is likely to be made later today (24 November) with other details of resettlement plans. CBC News, which reported the story quoting anonymous sources, said politicians in Canada like in the US were extremely concerned that the flow of refugees and migrants could make it possible for Islamic State (Isis) militants to infiltrate their country. Authorities believe that at least two of the eight people believed to have been involved in the Paris attacks came as part of the refugee flow from Syria via Greece.
The government now fears that single men who belong to the IS could infiltrate the country under the guise of refugees. They could abuse the benevolence of their new-found homes by acting like sleeper cells and activating them whenever required to carry out attacks. The government has so far, however, been silent on the kind of security screening it is doing to offer asylum status to these refugees.
"It's a compromise. It is not the ideal scenario to protect vulnerable people – women, children and men too. But I think what happened in Paris has really changed the dynamic and public opinion," said Faisal Alazem of the Syrian Canadian Council, a non-profit group in talks with the government to sponsor refugees to Radio-Canada.
Newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's campaign promise to accept 25,000 refugees by year's end (accepting around 500 people per day) has also drawn the ire of critics who feel this is a rushed strategy that has not been well thought out. About half of Canadians, or 51%, disapprove of their government's plan to settle Syrian refugees on their soil, and nearly six in 10 voters believe there are security risks associated with them settling in the country, according to a Forum Research poll conducted on 17 November in which 909 people were surveyed.
The latest issue of Dabiq, a magazine published by the IS, calls on "mujahadeen" (jihadi fighters) in Western countries including Canada to fight for their cause. "Kill a kafir (non-believer) American or European — especially the spiteful and filthy French — or an Australian, or a Canadian," reads a statement from the article.
Moreover, costs are also mounting on the Canadian government's head with regard to the refugee plan. A Canadian press report published last week says the first year of the refugee plan alone will cost the government $876.7m, a large part of which will be the result of airlifting thousands of people from the refugee camps in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere by 31 December. The total cost of the programme is expected to be $1.2bn over six years.