A “moral imperative” to support Canada’s pledge to resettle 40,000 Afghan refugees

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Afghan refugees who supported Canada’s mission in Afghanistan arrive at Toronto Pearson International Airport on August 24.

MCpl Geneviève Lapointe / Reuters

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said the government is committed to resettling 40,000 Afghan refugees from high-risk groups because Canada has a “moral imperative” to do good for the Afghan people.

The new relocation target doubles Ottawa’s original figure announced in August. The decision to bring more Afghan refugees to Canada was taken in response to the scale of the continuing crisis in Afghanistan, Mendicino said in an interview.

The program will still include private sponsorship and government-assisted refugees, although Mendicino has yet to provide a timeline. He said Canada has already resettled over 2,500 Afghan refugees through the program.

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“Canada is once again demonstrating its ability to be a global pioneer by being the first country in the world to launch a humanitarian resettlement program that specifically focuses on women, girls, LGBTI people and targeted minorities,” said Mr. Mendicino. “We have widened this historic path by doubling our humanitarian resettlement commitment from 20,000 to 40,000 Afghan refugees. “

He said the goal is to resettle those who are already outside of Afghanistan, although he said some people who are currently in Afghanistan might also be eligible. He said federal officials were working to help people exit the country via overland routes.

In August, as the Taliban quickly took control of Afghanistan, Ottawa announced a resettlement program to bring 20,000 Afghans from vulnerable groups to Canada. These included women leaders, human rights activists, journalists, LGBTQ people, people from persecuted religious groups and families of performers already resettled in Canada.

The rise in the number of eligible Afghan refugees follows a campaign commitment to the Liberal platform, in which the party said it would increase the number from 20,000 to 40,000.

Foreign Minister Marc Garneau made the announcement of the new target during his address to the United Nations on Monday.

“Canadians overwhelmingly asked us to do more. And in response to their generosity and welcoming spirit, we are now committed to welcoming 40,000 Afghan refugees to Canada, ”he said, comparing this effort to the resettlement of Syrian refugees by Canada. More than 44,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in Canada since 2015, according to the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website.

As Taliban forces took control of Afghanistan this summer, some advocates have said Canada is slow to act to get interpreters, drivers and others working with the Canadian military and diplomatic services out of the country. .

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Fen Hampson, professor of international affairs at Carleton University and chairman of the World Council for Refugees and Migration, said having an election in the midst of the crisis was not ideal. “You need political leadership to act, and our political leadership has been distracted by the elections,” he said.

Professor Hampson said the decision to increase the number of resettled Afghans was a “positive development” and that it is important to bring these people to Canada as quickly as possible. He added that Canada should help people who are still in the country to get out if they want to as well.

Professor Hampson also noted that the decision to announce the new target to the United Nations sends a message to the international community to take responsibility for the situation in Afghanistan, where the new Taliban government has limited rights and many citizens fear being targeted because of their work with foreign governments.

“Canada is now in a position, with some moral authority, to encourage other countries, which are closing or have closed their doors, to rise to the occasion as well,” he said. “Ultimately, this has to be a concerted and cooperative international effort. “

He added that the resettlement initiative should also be accompanied by diplomacy and funds to help those displaced and in need of assistance before they arrive in Canada.

“There must also be concerted diplomacy on an ongoing basis to ensure that the new Taliban government is held accountable,” he said.

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