Canada is accepting 5,000 Afghan refugees evacuated by the United States, federal officials said Tuesday as they work to rescue 1,250 Canadians stuck in the Taliban-ruled country.
The deal comes as part of a new agreement reached with the U.S. in order to secure safe passage for Afghans fleeing the Islamist militant group, said Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino. They will be accepted as part of the government’s expanded 20,000 Afghan refugee program.
He added Canada has received assurances from the Taliban that they will allow safe passage for those seeking to leave, as Canada works to evacuate citizens it left behind. Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau pegged that number at 1,250.
They include Canadian citizens, permanent residents and family members.
“I would like to say that at the moment our advice to Canadians and Canadian permanent residents in Afghanistan and vulnerable Afghans is to stay put because the situation at this point is uncertain,” he said.
“Of course, we can’t prevent any personal decisions that may be made by people on the ground in Kabul.”
On Monday, the United States withdrew its forces out of Taliban-ruled Afghanistan following a two-decade-long war. The U.S. and other Western nations, including Canada, have been scrambling for weeks to airlift hundreds of thousands of refugees seeking to flee the Taliban regime.
Canada sent forces back to the region to assist in the effort, but fully withdrew its physical presence from the region on Aug. 26.
Mr. Garneau added that Canada and other allies are pressuring the Taliban to allow anyone with valid travel documents to leave the country, with hopes Kabul’s international airport will soon resume operations now that it’s under Taliban control.
Furthermore, he said that officials are in contact with neighbouring countries to accept Afghans who wish to come to Canada. Mr. Garneau is scheduled to speak with officials from Pakistan sometime on Tuesday.
“At the moment, the situation at the Pakistan border changes on a regular basis. It’s important to know that and sometimes certain points are open and other points are closed,” he said.
“So, we are going to be talking with Pakistan to tell them that if anybody does arrive at that border, or other neighbouring countries, we would like them to facilitate their entry and of course, our embassies and consulates are waiting to process them to get them on to Canada.”
Canada evacuated roughly 3,700 people from Afghanistan during its efforts in the country. On Aug. 27, the government announced it secured 500 seats on a U.S. flight for Afghans leaving the country. The U.S. and its allies evacuated more than 123,000 people in two weeks.
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