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Turkiye-Syria earthquake: Canada to accept more immigrants

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

After the 7.8-magnitude earthquake and several powerful aftershocks that occurred in southern Turkey and northern Syria on February 6, more than 50,000 people died and millions were displaced.

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

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

“For those who are applying for temporary resident visas, we will be able to prioritize their applications,” Fraser said.

“(There are) special measures that we have in place within our system to provide guidance to our officers to facilitate the approval of their cases so that they can come to Canada.”

Fraser said the government has learned how to try to take in people who fled Ukraine after the Russian invasion of their country last year. The government offered temporary protection to large numbers of people in Ukraine much faster than it could through regular refugee resettlement programs, he said.

“We’re using a new strategy to help facilitate the arrival of people who find themselves in those situations (who) wouldn’t normally be allowed to come to Canada,” he said.

“The special mechanism we use involves using advanced analytics in the IRCC system to identify people affected by the earthquake and make a positive decision for a whole group of applicants at once.”

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

Last month, the federal government announced an additional $20 million in earthquake relief and an additional $10 million in private donations.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on March 18, 2023.

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