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Can the world refugee problem be solved by shipping refugees overseas?

Why Canada’s refugee plan falls well short of a real solution

What does ‘duty to protect’ mean in a world awash in refugees?

By Stephen Toope, for CBC News Posted: Dec 20, 2015 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Dec 20, 2015 5:00 AM ET

Last week saw a smiling Canadian prime minister greeting exhausted Syrians at Toronto’s Pearson Airport.

He was even joined by opposition critics in rare solidarity with the Liberal government’s plan to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of February.

Over these past weeks as well, the media has been filled with stories about the outpouring of hospitality offered up by Canadian sponsors.

But the real story is happening elsewhere.

  • On Ideas, Monday Dec. 21: Global Justice Part 1: Refugees,  Economic Migrants  and Justice Across Borders
  • Tuesday Dec. 22: Global Justice Part 2:  Protecting Human Rights in a World of Conflict

According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, there are more than 100,000 refugees in Thailand, 660,000 in Kenya and almost 3.8 million in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Stephen J. Toope is director of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.

Meanwhile, on the borders of Syria and Iraq, fragile countries like Jordan, with more than a million refugees, and Lebanon, with roughly 1.8 million, are struggling to provide the “protection” supposedly guaranteed by the 1951 UN Refugee Convention. And Canada’s NATO ally, Turkey, is finding it hard to host almost 1.9 million refugees trying to escape the brutal almost-five-year-old conflict next door in Syria.

In comparison to the meagre efforts of the U.S., Canada’s current commitment to Syrian refugees looks ambitious.

But similar efforts in Germany, with one million refugees arriving in 2015, and tiny Sweden with 160,000, are far more dramatic; the social, political and financial costs in those two countries are potentially huge.

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