Former immigration minister blasts Tories over Syrian refugee files

The NDP and Liberals slammed the federal government on Thursday over reports the Prime Minister’s office ordered Citizenship and Immigration Canada to stop processing Syrian refugee applications for a period of several weeks this spring.

Stephen Harper denies PMO staff vetted Syrian refugee files

Conservative leader Stephen Harper: "Political staff are never involved in approving refugee applications." 0:34

The NDP and Liberals slammed the federal government on Thursday over reports the Prime Minister's office ordered Citizenship and Immigration Canada to stop processing Syrian refugee applications for a period of several weeks this spring.

The Globe and Mail reported the PMO ordered a halt to processing government-assisted refugees while it conducted an audit.

The federal government confirmed it did temporarily suspend some Syrian refugee claims during an audit this spring, but it did so to put in security measures to screen potential threats.

But the media report also suggested political staff were involved, and on Thursday, Conservative leader Stephen Harper said that wasn't true.

Local refugee advocates say whether there was political interference or not, people who needed help were left waiting.

"There is no logical reason that the government is trying to somehow put, let's say, obstacles in the process," said Ameen Al Jundi of the Syrian Assembly of Manitoba.

Lloyd Axworthy is a former immigration minister who is currently running a Liberal campaign.

"It's all hidden. We've seen a lot of that kind of secret administration recently on a number of these important files," said Axworthy. "You're dealing with life and death matters for human beings – for families and for people who are desperate."

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