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Canada delays refugee resettlement

Canada has said it will not meet its original deadline to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year. The country will now take an additional two months to fully implement its plans.

On Tuesday, Canada's Office for Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship released a statement saying that a smaller number of Syrian refugees than originally planned would be resettled in Canada by the end of 2015.

Originally, 25,000 Syrians were to be relocated by December 31, 2015. The revised figure is 10,000. The new deadline to fulfill Canada's full pledge for taking in refugees is the end of February 2016.

In an interview with Canada's CBC broadcaster, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the delay stemmed from a desire to "get it right" when it came to refugee resettlement.

"We realized that we wanted to make sure it was done absolutely right to ensure that Canadians who have been incredibly open and enthusiastic about it remain as positive about welcoming these families as they possibly could be," he told CBC.

Overseas screening

One notable aspect of Canada's resettlement proposal is that potential candidates for relocation will be selected and screened overseas by Canadian officials working with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Tuesday's statement said this would focus on identifying vulnerable refugees who are a lower security risk, but added that robust health and security screening would be conducted, and biographic as well as biometric information would be collected and compared against databases.

There had been some concern in Canada that the government's original target of resettling all refugees by the end of the year was too ambitious, especially given the security concerns raised in the aftermath of the

Paris attacks

.

Trudeau told the CBC that the Paris attacks did not play a role in his government's decision to push back to deadline.

"This is not about security. The security is an issue we've dealt with," he said. "This is about welcoming people who are fleeing terrorism, not bringing terrorism with them."

Trudeau's pledge is a quickly-implemented campaign promise from

elections last month

. It comes as French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said in an interview published Wednesday in Germany's "Süddeutsche Zeitung" newspaper that Europe must limit the number of migrants into the bloc.

Canada has pledged up to $678 million (635 million euros) over six years toward resettling and integrating Syrian refugees into Canada, and 36 cities have been identified as "destinations."

mz/kms (AFP, dpa)

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