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Immigration programs for Afghan refugees close to full

Marie Woolf, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — Two immigration programs, one set up to help Afghan interpreters who came to the aid of Canadian soldiers and the other intended for those particularly at risk under the Taliban regime, may not be enough to meet upon request, notify MPs and community organizations.

Since the Taliban took power in Afghanistan, Canada has created a special immigration program dedicated to Afghans who have assisted the Canadian Armed Forces in the field during their mission. This program particularly targets interpreters and their families.

In addition, Ottawa has also put in place a humanitarian program aimed at bringing out of Afghanistan the most vulnerable people under the Taliban regime, including members of the LGBTQ+ community and human rights defenders.

The federal government has promised to bring 40,000 Afghans to Canada through these two programs and through other channels, such as private partnerships.

However, the Department of Immigration has confirmed that it has received nearly 15,000 applications for the program aimed at Afghans who have helped Canada, which has 18,000 places.

Aidan Strickland, a spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Sean Fraser, stressed the government ‘will not end special immigration measures for Afghan refugees’ but warned the department has received another 3,000 potential applications transmitted by the Department of National Defense and the Department of Foreign Affairs — which would make the program complete.

Among the 14,935 applications received by the federal government, 10,670 have already been approved, according to data from the Department of Immigration, and nearly 7,000 Afghans have already arrived in Canada.

According to NDP MP Jenny Kwan, Afghans trying to register for the humanitarian program for vulnerable people told her that there were no more places available.

“The echoes I have from the field are that the last places available are being filled. There are many people who will be left behind,” lamented the one who is a member of the special committee on Afghanistan of the House of Commons.

More than 8,700 Afghans were able to settle in Canada under this humanitarian program.

Requested enlargement

Community organizations and opposition MPs are therefore calling on Liberal ministers to expand programs, as they believe that too many Afghans who have helped Canada could be targeted for retaliation by the Taliban if they remain in this country.

A group of non-profit organizations met with federal government officials last month to warn them that there were fewer and fewer places available in these two programs.

Afghans now living in Canada also told committee members that the Taliban are hunting down Afghans who have come to the aid of the Canadian military. The latter must therefore burn all the documents that connect them to Canada, in addition to adopting a nomadic lifestyle to avoid being spotted.

There are also increasing restrictions on women in Afghanistan, including their rights to work and travel alone. The Taliban in particular force women to cover their faces when they are in public space, which includes news readers on television.

Lauryn Oates, who runs a support organization for women in Afghanistan, warned the situation is “getting worse on many levels” and many women are losing their jobs.

She added her voice to the movement to ask the Canadian government to expand the reception capacity of reception programs. According to her, once these programs are complete, many Afghans will have nowhere else to go.

“We believe that 18,000 places is not enough; the program needs to be expanded. This means adding places, ”pleaded Ms. Oates.

But according to the spokeswoman for the Immigration Department, it will not be possible for Canada to meet the demand.

“The sad reality is that not everyone who has expressed a desire to come to Canada will be able to do so through the special programs,” Strickland said.

She added that even if the 40,000 places for special programs are taken, Afghans who still wish to come to Canada can look at the other immigration routes offered by Ottawa.