The Canadian government is launching a new program to help Syrians in Canada bring in family who have also fled the war-torn country.

The Syrian Family Links initiative lets Syrians in Canada identify family who are refugees in Lebanon, Jordan or Turkey. Those family members can then be connected with groups in Canada who are looking for someone to sponsor.

Canadian officials say refugees tend to integrate more quickly when they are privately sponsored rather government sponsored.

Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada said Wednesday that 15,685 Syrian refugees have landed in Canada to date. Of those, 5,468 are privately sponsored, 9,088 are government sponsored and 1,129 came through a program where they are referred by a visa officer.

Officials emphasize they are not "matching" sponsors to Syrian families abroad. They will simply provide a list of refugees to potential sponsors. Those refugees would still have to be approved for entry into Canada by the federal government. The family members and potential sponsors would then be responsible for discussing the terms of the sponsorship.

Hundreds of Syrian Canadian families have expressed interest, government officials say.

McCallum said Syrian Family Links was launched about a week or so ago, and so far 157 refugee families have been identified. Five Canadian sponsors have signed up and McCallum hopes many more will join.

Housing still an issue

McCallum says finding affordable housing for new arrivals continues to be an issue. Some communities have even asked for a temporary halt in the flow of refugees.

"It's significant but it's manageable," McCallum told reporters Wednesday.

He said he's meeting with representatives from the real estate industry soon to get suggestions and seek assistance.

McCallum added that military bases in Kingston, Ont. and Valcartier, Que. remain available to house refugees if needed, something he said could happen before the end of the month.