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Canada Vows to Nearly Double Intake of 'Protected Persons' as Refugee Family Backlog Grows

FILE - Syrian refugees wait at Marka Airport in Amman, Jordan, to complete their migration procedures to Canada, Dec. 8, 2015.
FILE - Syrian refugees wait at Marka Airport in Amman, Jordan, to complete their migration procedures to Canada, Dec. 8, 2015.

Canada will admit more refugees and their families this year as part of its effort to tackle a global crisis, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino said Friday.

He said Canada will take nearly double the number of protected persons, defined as people who have applied for and been granted refugee status after arriving in the country, as well as their immediate families abroad. The new target is 45,000, up from 23,500.

Mendicino also said the government plans to spend an additional $2.4 million over two years for refugee sponsorship and modestly expand a program blending refugee resettlement with economic immigration. His announcement comes ahead of ahead of World Refugee Day on Sunday.

"We hope to be able to facilitate their travel, obviously taking into consideration ongoing travel restrictions," Mendicino said, referring to refugees' family members.

Canada aims to resettle 36,000 refugees this year -- distinct from protected persons in that resettled refugees are referred directly to Canada by an agency like the UNHCR and have refugee status on arrival.

Mendicino has said Canada may accept Central American migrants to help the United States, which is struggling to deal with an increase.

The backlog of immigration applications for the family members of protected persons had been increasing before the pandemic and nearly doubled to 21,372 in January 2021 from 11,177 in January 2018, according to government data obtained by Reuters.

Reuters spoke with refugees waiting months or years to be reunited with family members subject to abuses in their countries of origin.

Even as Canada prepares to accept more refugees, it has sought to prevent asylum-seekers from coming into the country via its land border -- either through its Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States or through a COVID-19 policy being contested in court.

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    Reuters is a news agency founded in 1851 and owned by the Thomson Reuters Corporation based in Toronto, Canada. One of the world's largest wire services, it provides financial news as well as international coverage in over 16 languages to more than 1000 newspapers and 750 broadcasters around the globe.