Canadians prepare for arrival of Syrian refugees

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By Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

Toronto:  Canadians are preparing to welcome thousands of Syrian refugees set to arrive in the coming weeks even as the exact dates of the government-arranged flights remain shrouded in mystery.

Temporary processing centres have been set up to handle the waves of newcomers at Toronto’s Pearson airport and Montreal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau airport and officials say the facilities will be ready in time for the first arrivals.

Officials say that by the time refugees leave the terminals, they will have received permanent residency, a social insurance number, and information on working in Canada as well as a boxed meal.

Heidi Jurisic, director for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, says they aim to make refugees’ first experience of their new country a warm and welcoming one.

She says the whole process should take about three hours for those arriving on a small flight.

Privately sponsored refugees will then be taken to the families awaiting them, while those sponsored by the government will be brought to temporary accommodations.

“We will ensure that after their first arrival, that we have transportation available and that we assist them to where they are going to be going next in their journey in Canada, but we want to make sure that their first arrival in Canada where they feel very welcome,” she said.

Provincial officials also say they’re getting ready to roll out the welcome mat.

Ontario Immigration Minister Michael Chan and Health Minister Eric Hoskins are holding a special advisory meeting on refugees Tuesday afternoon with various government and community organizations to discuss housing, education and health-care planning for the refugees.

Hoskins said Ontario has a well-established network of settlement agencies, so the province is ready to receive them.

“I have confidence because we do this each year with the help of our community organizations for 12,000 refugees year after year,” Hoskins said.

“This is roughly the same number, obviously over a shorter period of time, but that’s why we’ve been doing the hard work that we’ve been doing over these past weeks.”