Canada delays plans to accept Syrian refugees amid terror concerns; priority given to families, women at risk, gays

Volunteers sort through clothing donations for Syrian refugees who are expected to arrive in Canada within the next month, at the Middle Eastern Friendship Centre in Surrey, British Columbia, on Nov. 26, 2015.Reuters

Canada has delayed its plans to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to the country after New Year amid concerns in the U.S. over the vetting-system and the possible embedding of Islamic State (ISIS) militants among the refugees.

Immigration Minister John McCallum made the announcement early this week, saying the refugees will come in batches with only 10,000 expected to land by Dec. 31 this year, an additional 15,000 in January and February 2016, and some 10,000 more later in 2016 for a minimum of 35,000.

"I've been saying time and time again, that yes we want to bring them fast, but we also want to do it right," he said, according to Fox News. "We're happy to take a little more time.''

"I've heard Canadians across this country saying, yes you have to do it right, and if it takes a little bit longer to do it right, then take the extra time,'' he added.

McCallum said the Trudeau government will this time give priority to the "most vulnerable'' such as families, women at risk and members of the LGBT community.

Single men will only be granted admission if accompanying their parents or if they are part of the LGBT community, according to Canadian newspapers.

Officials assured that the refugees will be fully screened before they enter Canada.

Fears about ISIS fighters entering the United States and other countries heightened after the Paris attacks in which one of the suicide bombers apparently came from Syria and entered France by foiling Europe's refugee-vetting system, Fox News reported.

Last week, the House voted to strengthen refugee vetting. On Tuesday, President Barack Obama stood by the current plan to bring in 10,000 Syrian refugees next year.

His decision is being opposed by more than half the country's governors, including one Democrat, saying they wouldn't accept Syrian refugees. A Republican-sponsored bill calling for tighter screening of the refugees was also passed in the House of Representatives this week, with 37 House Democrats joining the Republicans, said Fox News.

Recent polls also show that most Americans—at least 67 percent of those surveyed in a Fox News poll—oppose Obama's plan to take in at least 10,000 more Syrian refugees next year, with 49 percent saying it is "very likely'' that some of those who will enter the country would be terrorists who would out carry out an attack on U.S. soil.

President Pierre Trudeau has said robust security screening continues to be a high priority in Canada in the light of recent terror attacks.

Canada prided itself as the most welcoming nation in terms of accepting refugees. It airlifted more than 5,000 people from Kosovo in 1990s, and more than 5,000 from Uganda in 1972. It also resettled 60,000 Vietnamese between 1979 to 1980.