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Canada's Syrian refugee plan leaves out those still in war-torn country

As Syrian refugees begin arriving in Canada, some Syrian-Canadians are warning that their families still living in the war-torn country aren’t eligible to move here.

Mississauga, Ont. family trying to get relatives out of Damascus

Canada's plan to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees doesn't apply to those still living in the war-torn country, a Mississauga, Ont. family has learned. (Sean Gallup/Getty)

As Syrian refugees begin arriving in Canada, some Syrian-Canadians are warning that their families still living in the war-torn country aren't eligible to move here.

Yassim Kalaas, of Mississauga, spoke with CBC News at the Beirut airport on his way back from Damascus, Syria's capital. Kalaas made the trip with hopes of resettling his brother's family of five and his sister, but had no luck.

His family, he said, doesn't qualify for the Canadian government's refugee plan, so he'll have to find another way to get them out of the country.

"It's very bad. I'm afraid for the future for them. I'm very sad for the kids, for the small, young people," Kalaas said. "Nobody knows the future for anyone in Syria."

The federal government plans to welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees by March 10, with some 10,000 arriving before the end of this year. But those refugees — largely families, women and children — will come from countries like Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

Critics said the decision to cut out single men may exclude some who are at serious risk, including some who may face persecution based on their sexuality.

Justin Trudeau, speaking with Metro Morning last week, said the exclusion was made because of the plan's "accelerated" pace but that it isn't final. He also said he expects the country to take in more Syrians in the coming years and that the initial influx is just a beginning.

It's still unclear, however, the government will approach immigration cases like that of the Kalaas family.

Kalaas said he won't give up hope just yet.

Around 30 refugees boarded Canada-bound planes in Lebanon on Sunday, with hundreds more expected in the coming days. Eventually, the government hopes to move about 900 refugees per day.

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