Canada welcomes first of Afghan refugees who supported Canadian military mission

OTTAWA – The first plane filled with Afghan refugees who supported the Canadian military mission in Afghanistan has arrived in Canada.

OTTAWA – The first plane filled with Afghan refugees who supported the Canadian military mission in Afghanistan has arrived in Canada.

The federal government does not say how many refugees were on board the flight on Wednesday or where they will be resettled in Canada, citing the need to protect the evacuees and the safety of the operation.

It is the first of a number of flights the government promises to bring refugees out of Afghanistan as a resurgent Taliban regains control of parts of the country after the withdrawal of US troops.

Many Afghans who contributed to Canada’s mission in Afghanistan have become targets of the Taliban.

Last month, the government announced a special program to urgently resettle Afghans considered integral to the mission of the Canadian Armed Forces, including interpreters, cooks, drivers, cleaners, construction workers. , security guards and embassy staff, as well as members of their families.

Applicants must still meet all usual eligibility requirements, including security, criminal and health exams.

In a statement Wednesday evening, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, Foreign Minister Marc Garneau and Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan said the government was working “around the clock” to identify eligible people.

“The government has been seized with the emergency on the ground and is working as quickly as possible to resettle Afghan nationals who put themselves at risk to support Canada’s work in Afghanistan,” the ministers said.

They said a team is on the ground in Afghanistan to help Afghans submit applications and provide necessary documents.

“We are doing everything we can to get every Afghan refugee out as quickly as possible, but we recognize that the security situation can change quickly.

However, Not Left Behind, a group that advocates for Afghans who have supported the Canadian military, criticized the government’s slow response so far and urged it to speed up its efforts.

“The overwhelming majority of interpreters and local staff remain in Afghanistan, and we continue to hear reports of panic and uncertainty caused by the slow progress and repeated blunders in the government’s response to date,” he said. declared the group.

The group also said it was disappointing that the government’s special program excludes Afghans who have been displaced to another country, as well as the families of Afghans who have already resettled in Canada.

Some 40,000 Canadian troops were deployed to Afghanistan for 13 years as part of the NATO mission before withdrawing in 2014.

The government says more than 800 Afghans who supported the mission have been resettled in Canada over the past decade, but recognizes that many more remain in Afghanistan.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on August 4, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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