What happens when the Syrian refugee flights start landing?

While no firm arrival times have been announced for the first flights, plans are in place to welcome incoming waves of refugees starting as early as Thursday evening.

Special terminals set up in Toronto and Montreal for flights expected later this week

Syrian refugees wait at Marka Airport in Amman, Jordan, on Tuesday, completing their migration procedures to Canada in advance of the first flights later this week. (Raad Adayleh/Associated Press)

In the coming weeks, planes full of Syrian refugees from Jordan and Turkey will begin landing at the Toronto and Montreal airports.

While no firm arrival times have been announced for the first flights, plans are in place to welcome incoming waves of refugees starting as early as Thursday evening.

Here are five things to know about what will happen:

They won't use regular arrival terminals

The Canada Border Services Agency has set up temporary ports of entry at both Toronto Pearson International Airport and Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport. The agency says that will allow for the processing of all passengers on a flight within three to four hours and provide a waiting room where water and food will be provided as well as a baggage-screening area. The temporary ports are to remain operational until the end of February.

There will be a lot of paperwork

Border services officers will confirm the newcomers' identities using the documents each Syrian received overseas. Immigration officials will photograph them for their Canadian documents. Public health officials will check for signs of illness that might require quarantine. Border agents will also hand each person a certificate for access to health care through the Interim Federal Health program, which covers medical costs until provincial health programs kick in. Food inspection agents will also look for any food, plants, animals or animal products that could be a threat to what the government calls "Canada's biosecurity."

After that, an official welcome

At the airport, individuals who pass the checks will become permanent residents of Canada. All will then continue on to a welcome centre. In Toronto, that will be at the airport. In Montreal, it will require a short bus ride.

The facilities include food, water, a play area for children and prayer rooms. People will receive winter clothing and get a Social Insurance Number. They'll then be taken to a local hotel for an overnight stay and a meal before beginning the next step.

Privately-sponsored refugees move on first

After their first night, those sponsored by private groups will continue to their destination community. Sponsors in Toronto and Montreal will get information from the government about when and where to meet their new charges.

Other refugees may take a while

The Immigration Department says government-assisted refugees will be transported to their destination communities over time. If those communities aren't ready for them, Syrians will be accommodated in what are being called "interim lodging sites."

Six sites have been identified at Canadian Forces Bases Kingston, Valcartier, Meaford, Petawawa, Trenton and Borden.

Kingston and Valcartier will be used first, because they have suitable accommodations and are closest to urban centres and airports, the department says. The centres will be run by the Red Cross, Defence and Immigration Departments and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

SOURCES: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, Canada Border Services Agency.

With files from CBC News


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