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Canada to accept more Syrian, Turkish residents after devastating February earthquake

The federal government will make it easier for temporary residents from Turkey and Syria to extend their stay in Canada and will prioritize the visa applications of people from these two countries, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said Saturday.

More than 50,000 people were killed and millions were displaced after the 7.8-magnitude quake and several powerful aftershocks hit southern Turkey and northern Syria on Feb. 6.

Fraser said the government will allow people from Turkey and Syria who have a temporary status to visit family, study or work in Canada to apply for an extension and will waive the application fees for them.

He said his department will also prioritize processing temporary visa applications for people affected by the earthquake.

“For those who apply for a temporary residency visa, we will be able to treat their applications with priority processing,” Fraser said.

“[There are] special measures that we’re implementing, internal to our system, to provide guidance to our officers to facilitate the approval of their cases so they can come to Canada.”

Fraser said the government has learned form its efforts to accept people escaping Ukraine after the Russian invasion of their country last year. The government offered temporary protection to large numbers of people from Ukraine much faster than it could through ordinary refugee resettlement programs, he said.

Man in grey suit
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Sean Fraser, pictured Feb. 9, made the announcement in Mississauga, Ont., Saturday along with Transport Minister Omar Alghabra. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

“We’re using a new strategy to help facilitate the arrival of people who find themselves in those situations [who] ordinarily may not be approved to come to Canada,” he said.

“The specific mechanism that we’re using involves the use of advanced analytics within the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) system to identify people who have been impacted by the earthquake and to render a positive eligibility decision for a whole group of applicants at once.”

The government said, as of March 10, about 600 Syrian and 6,400 Turkish residents in Canada had temporary status that is set to expire within the next six months.

Last month, the federal government said it is to send another $20 million in aid for people affected by the earthquake and is to match $10 million more in private donations.

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