The Government of Canada announced on Friday a special program to grant refuge to Afghan citizens who provided support to Canadian troops during their operations in the Asian country. “Canada has a responsibility to protect the courageous people of Afghanistan who have assisted us in our mission,” said Marc Garneau, Minister of Foreign Affairs. Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, indicated that these “quick and decisive” measures will give these people a future in the North American country.
The program will offer this protection to Afghan citizens who have supported in different tasks (interpreters, drivers, maintenance personnel, cooks, among others), as well as their families. The advance of the Taliban increasingly puts these individuals at risk; In retaliation for their services, they could face jail time, torture, or death sentences. Harit S. Sajjan, Defense Minister, stressed that Canada must take care of the safety of these people. The Canadian Armed Forces were present in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2014. Last April, President Joe Biden announced the withdrawal of the last US troops from that country by September 11 at the latest.
Minister Mendicino did not establish a precise number of Afghans who will obtain Canadian refuge, although he indicated that it could be “several thousand”. The three ministries work together to identify these people and facilitate the necessary procedures. Mendicino said that operations teams are already on Afghan soil to begin their tasks. However, he indicated that the names of those selected will not be disclosed; neither the travel dates or the way they will be evacuated for security reasons.
The Ottawa announcement comes after weeks of pressure and uncertainty. On July 14, Washington reported that it would begin evacuation flights for Afghan personnel supporting US troops. In Canada, opposition politicians and voices within the military called on the Justin Trudeau government to take the plunge. On July 20, the daily The Toronto Star revealed that a group of Canadian veterans of the war in Afghanistan was providing support (logistical and economic) so that several people who collaborated with them could move between different locations and thus evade the controls of the Taliban.
On July 16, Marco Mendicino had indicated that the Canadian Government was resolving some details related to this protection for Afghan collaborators. On that date, Mendicino announced the creation of another special program – global in nature – to grant Canadian refuge to people at risk for their work in favor of human rights. The program will give said immigration status to about 250 individuals per year; the priority will be for women, journalists and LGBT activists.
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