OTTAWA — Canada remains committed to taking in 25,000 Syrian refugees but only 10,000 of them by year's end, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government said on Tuesday.
The Liberal administration, which had pledged to take in the full number of refugees from camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon this year, said 15,000 would now arrive in the first two months of 2016.
The delay was announced as the deadly Paris attacks stir fears in Europe and North America that jihadists could seek to blend in with refugees in order to strike later.
Recent polls showed 54 percent of Canadians support slowing down the operation to host refugees if it meant avoiding possible security lapses.
"Canadians have said do this right and if it takes a little longer to do it, then take the time," Immigration Minister John McCallum told a press conference.
"And so essentially this is what we are going to be doing."
Officials said communities across Canada where the refugees will be resettled also need more time to prepare for their arrival, McCallum said.
"We want them to have a roof over their head," he said. "We want them to have the right supports for language training and for all the other things that they need to begin their life here in Canada, and it takes a bit of time to put all of that in place."
Single males turned away
Under the plan, all 25,000 refugees would be identified by December 31 from lists prepared by the UN refugee agency and the government of Turkey, and invited to apply for relocation to Canada.
A text message will direct them to Canadian visa offices in Amman, in Beirut and one in Turkey where 500 government staff have been dispatched to process applications.
Officials said only whole families, women in vulnerable position, or single men who are gay -- therefore deemed at risk of persecution -- or accompanied by parents as part of a family will be accepted. Other single males old enough for military service would be turned away.
Trudeau's government has sought to reassure the White House over the safety aspect of its plans, as President Barack Obama faces a barrage of opposition to his own scheme to resettle 10,000 refugees in the coming year.
"We will not compromise the quality of the security work that must get done," said Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.
"Safety and security have always been at the very top of our priority list," he said.
The first refugee flight is expected to take off in early December, but a precise date has not yet been set. — AFP