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Turkey-Syria earthquake: Canada will accept more immigrants

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

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

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

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

“For those applying for a temporary resident visa, we will be able to process their applications with priority processing,” Fraser said.

“(There are) special measures that we are implementing, 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 from its efforts to accept people fleeing 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 regular refugee resettlement programs, he said.

“We are using a new strategy to help facilitate the arrival of people who are in these situations (who) cannot normally be allowed to come to Canada,” he said.

“The specific mechanism we use involves the use of advanced analytics within the IRCC system to identify people who have been affected by the earthquake and to make a positive eligibility decision for a whole group of applicants for the time.”

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

Last month, the federal government announced it would send an additional $20 million in aid to those affected by the earthquake and was to match an additional $10 million in private donations.

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

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