First Canadian plane with Syrian refugees arrives in Toronto

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meeting airport staff as they wait for Syrian refugees to arrive at the Toronto Pearson International Airport in Ontario on Dec 10.
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meeting airport staff as they wait for Syrian refugees to arrive at the Toronto Pearson International Airport in Ontario on Dec 10. PHOTO: REUTERS

OTTAWA (AFP) - A plane carrying 163 Syrian refugees arrived in Canada on Thursday (Dec 10), kicking off a drive to take in thousands from the war-torn country.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was at Toronto's airport to greet them. The government hopes to bring in 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year.

"We will all remember this day," Mr Trudeau said shortly before greeting the refugees, many of them women and children.

The first group arrived aboard a troop transport plane that set out from Beirut and made a stopover in Germany.

The new Liberal government campaigned on a pledge to resettle 25,000 Syrians this year.

But it backpedaled last month, citing logistical issues and following criticism that Ottawa had been moving too fast despite security concerns heightened by the terror attacks in Paris.

Immigration Minister John McCallum has said he remains hopeful the government can bring in 10,000 refugees by Dec 31. A further 15,000 are expected to arrive by the end of February.

Since the start of 2014, Canada has welcomed 3,500 Syrian refugees.