News / Canada

Turkey's done enough to help refugees, says Tom Mulcair

NDP Leader wants Canada to help resolve bureaucratic hurdles preventing many migrants from settling in Canada.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair wants Canada to help resolve bureaucratic hurdles preventing many migrants from settling in Canada.

The Canadian Press

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair wants Canada to help resolve bureaucratic hurdles preventing many migrants from settling in Canada.

DORVAL, QUE. — New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair said Turkey has done more than its fair share to help out refugees from Syria and it is time for Canada to play a role in resolving the bureaucratic hurdles preventing many of them from resettling here.

“You shouldn’t have people in this desperate situation falling into a bureaucratic trap, where they’re being asked to produce identity papers as if you had time to renew your driver’s license when you were walking across the desert with your family, so you have to take that into account,” Mulcair said Tuesday in Dorval, Que., when asked whether he had pressured the Turkish ambassador to Canada, Selcuk Unal, to relieve requirements for a Turkish exit visa that can be impossible for Syrian refugees to meet.

Tima Kurdi, the aunt of 3-year-old Alan Kurdi, whose lifeless body lying on a Turkish beach last week was captured in a news photograph that moved people around the world to demand that more be done to help resolve the Syrian refugee crisis, mentioned the overwhelming obstacles in her letter to Immigration Minister Chris Alexander earlier this year.

Mulcair did not directly answer whether he had raised the specific issue with the ambassador, but the NDP said Paul Dewar, their foreign affairs critic who is running for re-election in Ottawa Centre, did speak to him about it recently.

Unal also told Torstar News Service in an interview last week that Turkey is struggling to shelter and feed the more than 2 million refugees that have crossed its borders from Syria and Iraq and that while security screening takes time, exit procedures are easier when third countries like Canada have their embassies designate families for acceptance.

“Having more people on the ground there would be a good idea and of course we could use military assets to start moving refugees out of the area more rapidly, but it all begins with political will and Mr. Harper has shown no will whatsoever to start bringing a larger number of Syrian refugees more rapidly to Canada,” Mulcair said Tuesday.

“My chief of staff (Alain Gaul) has tried to stay in contact with Mr. Harper’s office, as you know, he’s the only person who can act right now, but he’s shown no willingness to act quickly and it’s a shame, because it is a human tragedy on a scale not witnessed on Earth since the Second World War,” said Mulcair, who also announced $160-million over four years to create a new aerospace manufacturing fund to help Canadian companies create jobs and compete globally.

“There’s no country that I know of that has done as much as Turkey to take in people,” said Mulcair.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper is sticking to his previously announced plan to accept 11,300 refugees from Syria and 23,000 from Iraq, which he sees as only one part of a solution that also involves humanitarian assistance and military action against the group called the Islamic State (known as ISIS or ISIL).

About 2,400 Syrian refugees have arrived in Canada so far.

The NDP has promised to spend $74-million to bring in 10,000 government-sponsored refugees from Syria by the end of the year, with another $63.8-million to resettle 9,000 a year until 2019.

The Liberals have promised “immediate action” to take in 25,000 government-sponsored Syrian refugees, which they said could be done by Jan. 1, 2016.

More on