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By IBTimes Staff Reporter | March 8, 2013 1:48 AM PST

Despite its pledge to resettle more refugees, Canada granted asylum to the second lowest number of refugees in over 30 years according to statistics released by the Canadian Council for Refugees. The statistics shows a drop of 26 percent in the number of refugees resettled in the country from 2011 to 2012.

The Canadian Council for Refugees in a press release expressed its disappointment to witness the sharp drop last year.

"We very much regret that the Minister has not been able to keep his promise to increase the numbers, and that in fact last year fewer people were able to find safety in Canada in this way," said Loly Rico, President of the Canadian Council for refugee.

"Canadians are proud to protect refugees through resettlement to Canada - but unfortunately the government has been closing the door on refugees," said Loly Rico.

While commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Refugee Convention in Geneva December 2011, the Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney pledged to increase the number of refugees by 20 percent.

The immigration minister in recent days has blamed the closure of refugee offices in Syria for the sharp drop in the number of refugees resettled by the Canadian federal government.

"There is a civil war in Syria which has forced the closing of our Damascus office and that has affected the processing of settled files and we are working on that right now," said Jason Kenney while addressing the House of Commons.

Its refugee office in Syria was handling thousands of refuge applications from the Middle East, including those from thousands of Iranian and Iraqi refugees living in Syria.

However, the refugee council said that the closure of the Damascus office alone won't result in such drastic change of numbers.

"The government had most of the year to shift its focus elsewhere," the council noted in the press release.

"The UNHCR has identified many refugees around the world in need of resettlement, many of them on an urgent basis," added the group.

Resettled refugees come in two streams: Government-Assisted Refugees and Privately Sponsored Refugees. Arrivals in both categories decreased dramatically in 2012.

According to the statistics, only 5,412 Government-Assisted Refugees were resettled - the lowest number since at least the 1970s, and only 4,212 refugees were received through Private Sponsored Refugees.

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