Government offers refuge to Afghans who assisted Canada

THE federal government said on Friday that many brave Afghans made incredible contributions to Canada’s efforts in Afghanistan—often at great personal risk. While over 800 were able to resettle in Canada over the past decade, many are still in Afghanistan. With the situation in the country deteriorating rapidly, many have become Taliban targets due to their work.

The government said it is seized with the urgency of the situation, and is working quickly to help those who put themselves at great risk to help Canada. Marco E. L. Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Marc Garneau, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence, announced a special program to resettle the Afghans who were integral to Canada’s efforts in Afghanistan.

In recognition of their service to Canada, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is implementing special immigration measures that will offer a path to protection in Canada for those at risk due to their work. The work at Global Affairs Canada (GAC) and the Department of National Defence (DND) is well underway to identify and assist individuals eligible for resettlement to Canada. Operational teams from IRCC, GAC and DND are currently on the ground in Afghanistan to support these efforts. Starting immediately, IRCC will begin processing individuals referred to them by GAC and DND.

Those eligible include interpreters who worked with the Canadian Armed Forces, cooks, drivers, cleaners, construction workers, security guards and locally engaged staff employed at the Embassy of Canada to Afghanistan, and their family members. Criteria to be referred for resettlement are based on applicants’ significant or enduring relationship with the Government of Canada. Applicants must meet all usual admissibility requirements, including security, criminal and health screenings, and processing timelines will be expedited. Applicants will also be subject to existing COVID-19 public health measures and safety protocols.

To protect their privacy, as well as the safety of extended family who may remain in Afghanistan, the government said it will not disclose the identity of those who will be resettled, how they will be evacuated or when. For security reasons, the government also will not comment on specific operational matters of its missions abroad.

Mendicino said: “So many Afghan citizens put themselves at risk to assist Canada, both during and after our military mission in Afghanistan. Now they face even greater threats from the Taliban, and we are doing everything possible to bring them to safety. Lives hang in the balance, which is why we’re taking timely and decisive action to support the Afghans who supported Canada, and offer them a future in this country. Canada will do right by those who did so much for us.”

Garneau said: “Canada has a responsibility to protect the brave people in Afghanistan who have helped us carry out our mission over 20 years to advance human rights, education, health and security in their country. As violence spreads, ensuring the safety and security of all of our personnel, whether Canadian or Afghan, past or present, and the people who are helping us on the ground, is our top priority.”

Sajjan said: “I know first-hand about the important work of those who helped the Canadian Armed Forces while Canada was in Afghanistan. We owe it to those who served alongside our members in uniform to make sure that they and their families are safe. That is why the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence have been working with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada from the beginning. We will continue that work until the Afghans who were integral to our work in Afghanistan are safe here in Canada.”