Matthew Behrens (NOW Toronto):
When Stephen Harper faced the media last week in response to the haunting, lifeless image of Alan Kurdi, the drowned three-year-old Syrian refugee, the Conservative leader tried to boost his compassion quotient by claiming his government will do “more of everything” to relieve a humanitarian crisis that has refocused attention on the Conservatives’ anti-immigration policies, not to mention its military campaign against ISIS.
The Conservatives are pledging to admit 10,000 more Syrians if re-elected.
What the Prime Minister failed to address was the traumatic fear faced by hundreds of Syrian nationals already in Canada whose refugee claims have been denied and are facing deportation to the very country from which Alan Kurdi’s family, and millions of others, have tried so desperately to flee.
According to the latest statistics, almost 800 Syrian nationals were issued departure orders from Canada in 2012 and 2013, even though as of March 12, 2012, the Canadian Border Services Agency has instituted what it calls “administrative deferral of removals” (ADR) for Syrians due to the chaos in that country.
Under ADR, deportation is stayed – not cancelled – pending changes in Syria, where the Assad regime’s war against the population remains the single greatest cause of a refugee flow that has topped 4 million people, with 7.6 million internally displaced.
Remarkably, Syria has yet to be placed on a list of moratorium countries to which no deportations can take place. Those facing ADR live in anxious limbo, never knowing if the next knock on the door could be border agents insisting that the time to leave Canada has arrived.
With lives on hold compounded by the possibility of forcible return to a country devastated by war, members of the expatriate Syrian community in Canada are wondering why the Harper government doesn’t extend to the hundreds already here the same resettlement promises (paltry as they are) it has now pledged on the campaign trail to overseas refugees.