Furio De Angelis, the representative for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, in Ottawa, said the call for help offered Canada a chance to show its humanitarianism.
“Canada is a very important country to the UNHCR not only for the support it gives to refugee programs but also for the leadership that it provides in terms of international standards of global protection,” he said during an interview with the Canadian Press. “We really count on Canada.”
The UNHCR asked that countries take in 100,000 Syrian war refugees by 2016, an increase from the previous call to accept 62,000. While 25 countries pledged to take the additional 38,000, Canada was not one of them.
In fact, Canada has failed so far to live up to its commitment made last year to take in 1,300 refugees in 2014. The government was to settle 200 refugees and it has actually brought in a few more than that. But the remaining 1,100 were to have been sponsored by private groups and that has not been reached.
The number of Syrian refugees that have entered Canada, according to updated government numbers released Tuesday, stands at 703, media reported.
The UN asked countries in 2013 to take in 30,000 of the most desperate refugees who were living in camps in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt.
But it is estimated that 3.8 million people have been turned into refugees by the Syrian civil war that has been raging since 2011.
“Syria has become the defining humanitarian challenge of our times and it’s important that the kind of offers of help we’ve seen today keep coming in,” the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, said in a press release.
Meanwhile, the Turkish ambassador to Canada, Selcuk Unal, who took up his duties here three months ago, said most of his time has been spent speaking with Canadian officials about how dire the crisis really is for refugees.
“In those meetings with Canadian authorities, we are of course telling them we are thankful with what they are doing so far with international efforts,” he said in an interview with Canadian Press in Ottawa.
“We are also asking them to do more to either increase their bilateral assistance to Turkey and Turkish efforts and/or continue with (the) resettlement process they have started,” he said.