Mayor Robertson welcomes refugees with open arms

Refugees trek through Europe. (Credit: AP).

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson yesterday led partners from other cities in welcoming the federal government’s commitment to giving 25,000 Syrian refugees a new life in Canada.

“Canada's big cities stand ready and willing to help assist Syrian refugees as they come to Canada and integrate into our communities. As mayors, we see how much our cities have benefited from welcoming people from all walks of life. The multicultural diversity of our cities is one of Canada's greatest strengths,” said Robertson in a Nov. 20 statement as chair of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

He said that Canada's major cities are currently working with both the federal government and local support agencies to help refugee resettlement efforts, adding that settling new arrivals would “require proper planning, time, and care.”

Robertson also reassured the public that the screening process for new refugees was thorough, but added that it was not a “trade-off,” between compassion and security.

“Canada has a long history of opening its doors to people from around the world, and as one of the most peaceful and prosperous countries in the world, we have an obligation to help those who are less fortunate,” said Robertson.

Republicans aim to slam door on Syrians

Canada’s more welcoming stance on refugees stands in stark contrast to both its southern neighbour and Europe, which is currently grappling with the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.

In the U.S., 27 Republican governors wrote to President Barack Obama, demanding that he suspend Washington’s plan to admit refugees fleeing the Syrian Civil War into America.

Coming just one week after Islamic State terrorists massacred 129 people in Paris, the governors said in their letter that the terrorists “may have exploited the generosity of the refugee system to carry out Friday’s terrorist attack.”

However, it has now emerged that all Paris terrorists so far identified were citizens of European Union (E.U.) countries, casting doubts on the authenticity of a Syrian passport found near the body of one slain attacker.

This has not stopped Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump from promising that he would deport all Syrian refugees admitted under Obama's watch, if he wins the White House in 2015.

Trump has also called for all American Muslims to be registered with the U.S. government in order to track their movements and carry special identification, which provoked an outcry.

Europe riven by humanitarian catastrophe

Across the Atlantic, European nations have now been grappling for months with a full-scale exodus, as desperate refugees cross the Mediterranean from Turkey to Greece on rickety boats and rafts. Others are streaming over land borders, crossing from Greece through the Balkans and Hungary towards Germany.

The Hungarian government reacted to the refugee crisis by building a 108-mile fence along its southern border with Serbia to keep out new arrivals, but succeeded only in diverting desperate Syrians and Afghans towards Croatia and Slovenia.

While poorer nations on the E.U.’s edge are intent on keeping out refugees that they are often ill-equipped to handle, western European countries including France and Germany have taken a more generous approach.

Earlier this year, Germany opened its doors to hundreds of thousands of people and is now expected to host up to one million people by year’s end. But the Berlin government recently announced an end to its open-door policy as it reinstates border controls.

Meanwhile France – despite the recent bloodshed on the streets of its capital – announced on Nov. 18 that it would accept 30,000 Syrian refugees over two years. French president Francois Hollande pledged that all new arrivals would undergo security screening, echoing Canada’s promise to do likewise.

"Thirty thousand refugees will be welcomed over the next two years. Our country has the duty to respect this commitment," said Hollande at a gathering of French mayors.

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