Canada Welcomes First Syrian Refugee Resettlement Flight

Canada - IOM, in coordination with UNHCR and the governments of Canada and Lebanon, last night successfully moved 163 Syrian refugees from Beirut, Lebanon to Toronto, Canada. They were the first of 25,000 Syrian refugees that the Canadian government has committed to resettle from the Middle East by early 2016.

IOM is assisting Canada by providing transport, basic registration, medical screening and logistics support. The Government of Canada interviews the refugees, records their biometrics and is responsible for security screening.

IOM provided escorts for the refugees from Rafiq Harifi International Airport in Beirut to Lester B. Pearson International Airport in Toronto. They flew to Canada on a Royal Canadian military transport plane belonging to 437 Squadron.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was present at the terminal to greet refugees in person with warm clothing and toys for children. He was joined by Canadian Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship John McCallum, Minister of Defense Harjit Sajjan and Minister of Health Jane Philpott.

The 163 Syrians were given permanent Canadian residence papers and social insurance numbers on arrival.

The families, mostly from Aleppo and Damascus, erupted in applause and cheers as the plane touched down in Toronto. Many expressed excitement and hope for a better future.

Hala, 23, told IOM staff: “I am so thankful that this dream has come true for me. I was living in a two-bedroom flat in Beirut with 25 other family members. I was going to law school in Damascus, but had to drop out in my last year because of the war. I want to continue my education in Canada and become a lawyer.”

IOM Chief of Mission for Lebanon Fawzi Al-Zioud said: “We are very happy to see the first flight leave for Canada. We want to thank the government of Canada the refugees, and the Government of Lebanon for facilitating this movement through the airport and providing exit visas. Our team in Lebanon has been working around the clock to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible.”

Beirut-based IOM Operations Coordinator Ali Abdi said: “It was ultimately the collaboration between Canada, Lebanon and IOM that was responsible for putting these 163 refugees on the plane today. We expect that we will succeed in meeting our goals to move 9,000 refugees from the region to Canada by the end of the year.”  

For more information, please contact Taryn Fivek at IOM Toronto, Tel. +1 647–984-7932, Email: