Ottawa (AFP) - Canada's conservative government said it would accept 10,000 Syrian refugees within one year by simplifying and speeding up the immigration application process.
Visa officers will no longer ask the applicants to prove that they are refugees through a United Nations refugee agency, but will instead "presume those fleeing the conflict meet the definition of a refugee, which will make processing faster," the Ministry of Immigration and Citizenship said in a statement.
As a result, "we anticipate meeting Canada's current commitment of resettling 10,000 Syrians by September 2016 – 15 months earlier than planned. Canada's existing commitment to resettle 23,000 Iraqis will also be fulfilled by the end of this year," the statement read.
Visa officers will focus their interviews "on security, criminality and medical screening," the statement added.
By this different designation "we are greatly expanding the potential for candidates," Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said.
"We will have more human resources hitting the ground in the coming days and weeks" to process the applicants, he said.
Canada's Conservative Party, currently in power, has been criticized in the past weeks for moving too slowly to help Syrian refugees pouring across the Mediterranean into Europe.
Opposition parties have promised, if they gain power in October 19 elections, to have a more generous policy towards Syrian refugees.
Polls show Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Tories in a tight race with center-left parties. Harper is seeking his fourth mandate in nine years.