Refugee Crisis

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Spain vows to restore order after thousands swim into Ceuta from Morocco
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Jon Nazca and Mariano Valladolid
Publishing date:May 18, 2021 • 21 hours ago • 2 minute read • Join the conversation
Spanish legionnaires attend to a Moroccan citizen on El Tarajal beach, near the fence between the Spanish-Moroccan border, after thousands of migrants swam across this border on Monday, in Ceuta, Spain, May 18, 2021.
Spanish legionnaires attend to a Moroccan citizen on El Tarajal beach, near the fence between the Spanish-Moroccan border, after thousands of migrants swam across this border on Monday, in Ceuta, Spain, May 18, 2021. PHOTO BY JON NAZCA /REUTERS
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CEUTA — A sudden influx of migrants swimming into the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in northern Africa is a serious crisis for Europe, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Tuesday, vowing to re-establish order promptly amid heightened diplomatic tensions with Morocco.

Spain deployed troops to Ceuta to patrol the border with Morocco after around 8,000 migrants, many from Sub-Saharan Africa and including 1,500 minors, entered the enclave on Monday and Tuesday by swimming in or climbing over the fence.


Armored vehicles were guarding Ceuta’s beach on Tuesday, and soldiers and police used batons to clear migrants from the beach and threw smoke bombs to discourage others from crossing.

A Reuters reporter on the ground said the number of arrivals by sea had slowed, and some migrants were voluntarily returning to Morocco. A few others could be seen being carried away by soldiers. Footage of the beach at around 8 p.m. local time showed nearly all migrants had been cleared.

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Spain said approximately 4,000 migrants had already been sent back to Morocco, under a readmission deal.


The regional leader of Ceuta criticized what he described as Morocco’s passivity in the face of Monday’s surge, and some independent experts said Rabat had initially allowed it as a means of pressuring Madrid over its decision to admit a rebel leader from the Western Sahara to a Spanish hospital.

The Spanish government did not make that connection, with Sanchez calling the north African nation a friend of Spain and the interior ministry citing cooperation over the readmissions, although Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya told Morocco’s ambassador Spain rejected and disapproved of the mass arrivals.

Rabat recalled its ambassador to Madrid for consultations, said a diplomatic source who declined to be named, adding that relations with Spain needed a moment of “contemplation.” Moroccan authorities did not respond to requests for comment.

Moroccan TV footage showed authorities setting up barriers on Tuesday afternoon to prevent people from crossing into Ceuta, but footage filmed from the Spanish side earlier showed a Moroccan soldier or policeman waving dozens of running migrants through a gate to no-man’s land without any checks.

“This sudden arrival of irregular migrants is a serious crisis for Spain and Europe,” Sanchez said in a televised address before his arrival in Ceuta.

European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas tweeted that the enclave’s frontier was a European border, expressing his “full solidarity with Spain.”

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Ceuta, with a population of 80,000, is on the northern tip of Morocco across from Gibraltar. Along with another Spanish enclave, Melilla, it has long been a magnet for African migrants seeking a better life in Europe. Morocco has a claim on both.

WESTERN SAHARA DISPUTE

The spike in arrivals took place after Rabat expressed its anger last month when Spain discreetly admitted Brahim Ghali, the leader of Western Sahara’s rebel Polisario Front to hospital. Madrid said it acted on purely humanitarian grounds.

Morocco’s Foreign Ministry criticized what it said was Spain’s decision to admit Ghali under a false identity without informing Morocco, warning of repercussions.

The Polisario Front wants the Western Sahara to be an independent state rather than part of Morocco. Algeria, Morocco’s regional rival, backs the Polisario Front.

The United States in December recognized Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara territory.
 

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German army officer on trial for planning attack posing as Syrian refugee
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Publishing date:May 20, 2021 • 1 hour ago • 2 minute read • Join the conversation
Lawyer Johannes Hock talks to defendant Franco A. at a regional court in Frankfurt, Germany, May 20, 2021.
Lawyer Johannes Hock talks to defendant Franco A. at a regional court in Frankfurt, Germany, May 20, 2021. PHOTO BY BORIS ROESSLER /Pool via REUTERS
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BERLIN — A young German army officer went on trial on Thursday accused of planning to attack one or more politicians while posing as an Syrian asylum seeker to try to whip up anger against migrants.

In a case that rattled the government in Berlin when it first came to light, the man, identified as Franco A., is accused of posing under a false identity in 2017 and planning an attack he hoped would be blamed on refugees and migrants.

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The prosecution says Franco A. also stole ammunition from the German military, with former justice and current Foreign Minister Heiko Maas or the parliament’s Vice-President Claudia Roth seen as possible targets of an attack.

He was arrested in Vienna in February 2017 while trying to retrieve a loaded pistol he had hidden in the airport toilets after an officers’ ball, according to the investigations.


Sporting a beard and long black hair tied in a pony tail, Franco A. denied charges he had planned an attack.

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“I can assure you I am not a far-right extremist,” he told reporters when he entered the court building in Frankfurt. “I have a clean conscience…I have never planned any actions to the disadvantage of any person.”

According to the investigations, Franco A. in 2016 submitted an asylum request under his Syrian refugee alias David Benjamin and succeeded in tricking the authorities into granting him temporary residence in Germany,

The previous year, Germany had seen an influx of 890,000 migrants mainly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

“There would have been an attack,” Ursula von der Leyen, who was German defense minister then and now heads the European Commission, said at the time, describing a “horror scenario.”

“There would have been a weapon at the site, with fingerprints on it. We’d have put the prints in the system and have got the match of a Syrian refugee.”

According to the investigations, Franco A. posed to immigration authorities as a persecuted French-speaking refugee who spoke not a word of German.


He commuted from the Illkirch barracks in France, where he was serving in a prestigious Franco-German brigade, to attend asylum hearings, where he communicated through an interpreter.

After his arrest, swastikas and memorabilia from Germany’s wartime army, the Wehrmacht, were found on the base in Illkirch, triggering a search of all German army barracks for banned Nazi memorabilia.

When the German armed forces were refounded after the Second World War, they disavowed any link to the Wehrmacht, which was complicit in many Nazi atrocities. Set up in 1955, the new Bundeswehr was to be a democratic body of “citizen soldiers” with the autonomy and confidence to reject immoral orders.

The Franco-German brigade in Illkirch where Franco A. served symbolizes the post-war rapprochement between the erstwhile foes. The army officer has been since suspended and is banned from wearing a uniform.
 

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Coast Guard suspends search for 10 Cuban migrants from capsized boat near Florida
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Kanishka Singh
Publishing date:May 31, 2021 • 8 hours ago • 1 minute read • 5 Comments
In this handout image courtesy of the US Coast Guard the Coast Guard Cutter Resolute small boat crew rescues 8 people from the water approximately 18 miles southwest of Key West, Florida, May 27,2021.
In this handout image courtesy of the US Coast Guard the Coast Guard Cutter Resolute small boat crew rescues 8 people from the water approximately 18 miles southwest of Key West, Florida, May 27,2021. PHOTO BY US COAST GUARD /AFP via Getty Images
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The U.S. Coast Guard said it has suspended the search for 10 Cuban migrants believed missing from a boat that capsized off Key West, Florida.

Two people were killed and 10 were believed missing in the incident, the U.S. Coast Guard had reported on Thursday.

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Coast Guard, Navy, Air Force, Customs and Border Protection and Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission air and surface asset personnel conducted multiple search patterns for more than 123 hours, covering about 8,864 square miles, the Coast Guard said in a statement on Sunday.


“The Coast Guard, partner Department of Defense and local agency crews searched continuously the past three days to locate the missing 10 people,” said Captain Adam Chamie, Commander of Sector Key West.

“The decision to suspend a search is always difficult and is made after careful consideration of all the facts. Our deepest condolences go out to the families and loved ones impacted by this tragedy,” Chamie added.

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Eight survivors from the wreck were pulled from the water 18 miles southwest of Key West by crew members of a Coast Guard cutter on patrol in the area, Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer Jose Hernandez had said on Thursday.


He had also said that two bodies were recovered and that Coast Guard teams continued to search the area by aircraft and vessels for 10 people who, according to the survivors, were unaccounted for after the boat flipped.

Earlier this month, a vessel packed with 32 people capsized and broke apart off a rocky shoal near San Diego, California, in what authorities said was an ill-fated migrant-smuggling attempt from Mexico that left three dead and five hospitalized.
 

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Canada to resettle Afghans who worked with military, embassy
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Publishing date:Jul 23, 2021 • 12 hours ago • 4 minute read • 12 Comments
A Canadian flag patch is shown on a soldier's shoulder in Trenton, Ont., on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014.
A Canadian flag patch is shown on a soldier's shoulder in Trenton, Ont., on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. PHOTO BY LARS HAGBERG /THE CANADIAN PRESS
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OTTAWA — The federal government responded to weeks of pressure from Canadian veterans on Friday by announcing that it will fast-track the resettlement of potentially thousands of Afghans who have worked with Canada at different times over the past 20 years.

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Yet the trio of cabinet ministers on hand to announce the new immigration measures were surprisingly light on details, including exactly who will be eligible as well as how and when people now in danger from the Taliban for having helped Canada will start to arrive.


“For operational security reasons, the precise timing of this operation is extremely sensitive,” said Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, who is leading the effort alongside Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Foreign Affairs Marc Garneau.

“For the safety and security of the Afghans as well as the Canadian teams who are already on the ground ⦠we have to safeguard the precise details of how this operation will be carried out, as well as exactly when it will begin.”

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Friday’s announcement followed growing concern and frustration within Canada’s veterans’ community after the sudden withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in recent weeks emboldened the Taliban to take large swaths of the country.

The captured territory includes parts of the southern province of Kandahar, where the Canadian military spent the longest amount of time during its 13-year mission in the country and fought its bloodiest battles since the Korean War.

Canada lost 158 soldiers and seven civilians in Afghanistan before the military was withdrawn in 2014, most of them to hostile action by the Taliban.

Now the veterans say those Afghans who supported them as well as their families are facing the threat of retribution as the Taliban expands its reach and looks to exact revenge on collaborators.

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Mendicino said the government already has teams on the ground working to identify people who are at risk for having worked with Canada, and that immigration officials will fast-track applications for asylum from those who qualify.

“Our focus is on those who have had a significant and enduring relationship with the government of Canada,” he said.

“Those eligible will include but are not limited to interpreters who worked with the Canadian Forces during the combat mission, locally engaged staff currently or previously employed at the Canadian Embassy and their families.”

He also encouraged Afghans now living in Canada to reach out to his office directly if they feel their families back at home are at risk and eligible.

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Canada previously resettled about 800 Afghan nationals and their families in two separate programs launched in 2008 and 2012, before the end of the military mission.

Asked how many people could be eligible for escape to Canada this time around, Mendicino said: “Without getting into precise numbers, we do anticipate that the numbers will be in the several thousand.”

Mendicino and Sajjan also refused to say how the refugees will get to Canada, including whether Ottawa was fighting for space on evacuation flights planned by the U.S. and other allies.

“Obviously, for operational security reasons, we can’t provide the details,” Sajjan said. “But one thing I can assure you that we are involved with the planning the logistics and security of how this will take place.”

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He added, without providing detail, that Canada is in contact with its allies.

Friday’s announcement had been long anticipated after the government faced mounting pressure from Canadian veterans and others worried about former Afghan colleagues who now face arrest and even death at the hands of the Taliban.

Many had questioned why Canada was slow to act compared to the U.S., which is working with NATO to fly about 4,000 Afghan nationals and their families out of the country, and whose Congress has approved tens of thousands of special visas.

The U.S. is also reportedly considering flying tens of thousands of former interpreters and others to Kuwait and Bahrain so their immigration applications can be processed in safety.

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The Conservatives and NDP blasted the timing of Friday’s announcement, accusing the Liberal government of having been caught unprepared and then dragging its feet until pressured into action.

“The Americans made it clear that they would be leaving Afghanistan months ago, and the rise of the Taliban was an expected result,” Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said in a statement.

“It’s quite disappointing that these Afghans who saved the lives of our men and women in uniform were an afterthought to this Liberal government.”

The NDP echoed that assessment and criticized the lack of detail, including when Afghans will start being evacuated.

One Canadian veteran involved in the grassroots push to help Afghans agreed that the government likely wouldn’t have acted if it wasn’t for the outcry that preceded Friday’s announcement.

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But Dave Morrow, a Montreal-area high school teacher who served in Afghanistan in 2010-11 and has been trying to help Afghan interpreters come to Canada for a decade, said the important thing is the government has made a firm commitment.

Morrow, who is a member of an online group called Afghan-Canadian Interpreters that has been spearheading the issue, also agreed with the ministers’ concerns about security when it came to providing details about the current effort.

“We are actively working with the Canadian government to ensure that we get as many Afghans as possible over to Canada,” Morrow said. “So I have every confidence the government wouldn’t backtrack.”

The question now is what criteria will be used to decide which family members of Afghans who worked with Canada can come here, Morrow said, and when people can start to escape.

“Every day that we let go is another day that we could potentially save lives,” he said. “However, that needs to be buttressed now with the operational security aspect of things. ⦠There’s going to be a fine balance there.”
 

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Canada to resettle Afghans who worked with military, embassy
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Publishing date:Jul 23, 2021 • 12 hours ago • 4 minute read • 12 Comments
A Canadian flag patch is shown on a soldier's shoulder in Trenton, Ont., on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014.
A Canadian flag patch is shown on a soldier's shoulder in Trenton, Ont., on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. PHOTO BY LARS HAGBERG /THE CANADIAN PRESS
Article content
OTTAWA — The federal government responded to weeks of pressure from Canadian veterans on Friday by announcing that it will fast-track the resettlement of potentially thousands of Afghans who have worked with Canada at different times over the past 20 years.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
Yet the trio of cabinet ministers on hand to announce the new immigration measures were surprisingly light on details, including exactly who will be eligible as well as how and when people now in danger from the Taliban for having helped Canada will start to arrive.


“For operational security reasons, the precise timing of this operation is extremely sensitive,” said Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, who is leading the effort alongside Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Foreign Affairs Marc Garneau.

“For the safety and security of the Afghans as well as the Canadian teams who are already on the ground ⦠we have to safeguard the precise details of how this operation will be carried out, as well as exactly when it will begin.”

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
Friday’s announcement followed growing concern and frustration within Canada’s veterans’ community after the sudden withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in recent weeks emboldened the Taliban to take large swaths of the country.

The captured territory includes parts of the southern province of Kandahar, where the Canadian military spent the longest amount of time during its 13-year mission in the country and fought its bloodiest battles since the Korean War.

Canada lost 158 soldiers and seven civilians in Afghanistan before the military was withdrawn in 2014, most of them to hostile action by the Taliban.

Now the veterans say those Afghans who supported them as well as their families are facing the threat of retribution as the Taliban expands its reach and looks to exact revenge on collaborators.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content

Mendicino said the government already has teams on the ground working to identify people who are at risk for having worked with Canada, and that immigration officials will fast-track applications for asylum from those who qualify.

“Our focus is on those who have had a significant and enduring relationship with the government of Canada,” he said.

“Those eligible will include but are not limited to interpreters who worked with the Canadian Forces during the combat mission, locally engaged staff currently or previously employed at the Canadian Embassy and their families.”

He also encouraged Afghans now living in Canada to reach out to his office directly if they feel their families back at home are at risk and eligible.

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Canada previously resettled about 800 Afghan nationals and their families in two separate programs launched in 2008 and 2012, before the end of the military mission.

Asked how many people could be eligible for escape to Canada this time around, Mendicino said: “Without getting into precise numbers, we do anticipate that the numbers will be in the several thousand.”

Mendicino and Sajjan also refused to say how the refugees will get to Canada, including whether Ottawa was fighting for space on evacuation flights planned by the U.S. and other allies.

“Obviously, for operational security reasons, we can’t provide the details,” Sajjan said. “But one thing I can assure you that we are involved with the planning the logistics and security of how this will take place.”

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Article content
He added, without providing detail, that Canada is in contact with its allies.

Friday’s announcement had been long anticipated after the government faced mounting pressure from Canadian veterans and others worried about former Afghan colleagues who now face arrest and even death at the hands of the Taliban.

Many had questioned why Canada was slow to act compared to the U.S., which is working with NATO to fly about 4,000 Afghan nationals and their families out of the country, and whose Congress has approved tens of thousands of special visas.

The U.S. is also reportedly considering flying tens of thousands of former interpreters and others to Kuwait and Bahrain so their immigration applications can be processed in safety.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
The Conservatives and NDP blasted the timing of Friday’s announcement, accusing the Liberal government of having been caught unprepared and then dragging its feet until pressured into action.

“The Americans made it clear that they would be leaving Afghanistan months ago, and the rise of the Taliban was an expected result,” Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said in a statement.

“It’s quite disappointing that these Afghans who saved the lives of our men and women in uniform were an afterthought to this Liberal government.”

The NDP echoed that assessment and criticized the lack of detail, including when Afghans will start being evacuated.

One Canadian veteran involved in the grassroots push to help Afghans agreed that the government likely wouldn’t have acted if it wasn’t for the outcry that preceded Friday’s announcement.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
But Dave Morrow, a Montreal-area high school teacher who served in Afghanistan in 2010-11 and has been trying to help Afghan interpreters come to Canada for a decade, said the important thing is the government has made a firm commitment.

Morrow, who is a member of an online group called Afghan-Canadian Interpreters that has been spearheading the issue, also agreed with the ministers’ concerns about security when it came to providing details about the current effort.

“We are actively working with the Canadian government to ensure that we get as many Afghans as possible over to Canada,” Morrow said. “So I have every confidence the government wouldn’t backtrack.”

The question now is what criteria will be used to decide which family members of Afghans who worked with Canada can come here, Morrow said, and when people can start to escape.

“Every day that we let go is another day that we could potentially save lives,” he said. “However, that needs to be buttressed now with the operational security aspect of things. ⦠There’s going to be a fine balance there.”

Good.
 
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Three refugee athletes competing in Tokyo heading to Ontario college
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Elena De Luigi
Publishing date:Jul 24, 2021 • 14 hours ago • 2 minute read • Join the conversation
Athletes from Canada take part in the opening ceremony
Athletes from Canada take part in the opening ceremony PHOTO BY FABRIZIO BENSCH /Reuters
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TORONTO — Three refugees from South Sudan competing at the Olympics will be heading to a Canadian college this fall under a program that gives students displaced by conflict a chance to pursue their academic goals.

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Rose Nathike Likonyen, Paulo Amotun Lokoro and James Nyang Chiengjiek are currently members of the Refugee Olympic Team at the Tokyo Games.

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They’ll be heading to Sheridan College in Oakville, Ont., as the first cohort of students in a new athletic stream of the Student Refugee Program, which sees post-secondary institutions privately sponsor refugees.

“They’ve earned the opportunity to rebuild their lives and to chart their journey forward to success and we’re just so proud to play a part in that,” Janet Morrison, Sheridan’s president, said in an interview.

All three athletes fled conflict in South Sudan as children and grew up in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, where they still live.

Likonyen and Chiengjiek competed in the 800-metre races at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro as part of the Refugee Olympic Team while Lokoro competed in the 1,500-metre race at those Games.

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Sheridan is working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Olympic Committee and the World University Service of Canada — a non-profit that manages the Student Refugee Program — to bring the athletes to Ontario.

The trio will begin their first year in Sheridan’s academic upgrading stream, which focuses on literacy, numeracy and critical thinking, but then they could choose different options to pursue based on their own interests and career aspirations, Morrison said.

The college will be supporting the athletes with academic advising, physical and mental health resources and housing supports, among other things.

“There’s a lot of research on how to position students for success, all kinds of different students from all kinds of backgrounds and lived experiences. What we know is that central to that is a sense of purpose, which I think, no doubt these three learners have,” she said.

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“They’ve had a lived experience with conflict and persecution so we’ll provide them with access to resources to help rebuild their lives here.”

The World University Service of Canada said the three athletes could help raise awareness on the need to support to more refugees.

“What Rose Nathike, Paulo Amotun, and James Nyang will remind the world on the Olympic stage in Tokyo, is that we have a collective responsibility to uphold the rights and help realize the potential of millions of refugees around the world,” executive director Chris Eaton said in a statement.

The UNHCR said it would like to see other countries sponsor refugees in a similar way.

“While the resettlement of refugee student athletes is relatively new, Canadian universities and colleges have a long history of sponsoring refugees to resettle and pursue post-secondary education at their institutions,” said Michael Casasola, UNHCR’s senior resettlement officer in Canada.

“It is a model that UNHCR has been encouraging other countries to follow so that more refugees are able to access post-secondary education and obtain a durable solution.”
 

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Canada welcomes first of Afghan refugees who supported Canadian military mission
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Publishing date:Aug 04, 2021 • 5 hours ago • 2 minute read • 10 Comments
Canadian Forces personnel deplane people and cargo from an RCAF C-17 Globemaster at Toronto Pearson International Airport on Wednesday, carrying Afghan nationals in danger for helping Canada's mission in Afghanistan
Canadian Forces personnel deplane people and cargo from an RCAF C-17 Globemaster at Toronto Pearson International Airport on Wednesday, carrying Afghan nationals in danger for helping Canada's mission in Afghanistan PHOTO BY HANDOUT PHOTO /Canadian Armed Forces
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OTTAWA — The first planeload of Afghan refugees who supported the Canadian military mission in Afghanistan has arrived in Canada.

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The federal government is not saying how many refugees were on board the flight Wednesday or where they’ll be resettled in Canada, citing the need to protect the evacuees and the security of the operation.

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It is the first of a number of flights the government is promising to spirit refugees out of Afghanistan as a resurgent Taliban retakes control of some districts in the country following the withdrawal of American troops.

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

The government last month announced a special program to urgently resettle Afghans deemed to have been “integral” to the Canadian Armed Forces’ mission, including interpreters, cooks, drivers, cleaners, construction workers, security guards and embassy staff, as well as members of their families.

Applicants must still meet all the usual admissibility requirements, including security, criminal and health screenings.

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In a statement late Wednesday, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said the government is working “around the clock” to identify eligible individuals.

“The government has been seized with the urgency on the ground and is working as quickly as possible to resettle Afghan nationals who put themselves at great 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 the necessary documentation.

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

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However, Not Left Behind, a group that’s been advocating on behalf of Afghans who supported Canada’s military, criticized the government’s slow response so far and urged it to accelerate its efforts.

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

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

Some 40,000 Canadian troops were deployed in Afghanistan over 13 years as part of the NATO mission before pulling out in 2014.

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