Canada will resettle up to 20,000 vulnerable Afghan nationals including female activists and journalists and also as the Taliban terror group advances in its bid to reclaim control of the war-torn country, Ottawa announced.
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“Canada will build on our earlier special immigration program to welcome over 20,000 vulnerable Afghan refugees, in total,” Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said during a press briefing on Friday.
Last week, Ottawa announced that it would resettle “thousands” of Afghans through special immigrant programs designed for those who assisted Canadian military efforts in Afghanistan, in particular, interpreters, who the Taliban views as traitors and have vowed vengeance against.
Canada’s minister noted Friday’s announcement would be in addition to the efforts to relocate those who provided direct assistance to the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).
Mendicino said the Canadian government will welcome individuals at greatest risk of Taliban reprisals, including women leaders, human rights activists, journalists and members of the so-called LGBT community.
The fourth flight carrying refugees landed in Canada just a “few hours ago,” Minister of National Defense Harjit Sajjan said during the same press briefing. The first flight carrying Afghan refugees touched down in Toronto on August 4, carrying an unspecified number of people, with the second and third flights arriving on August 8 and 11, according to Canada’s defense chief.
According to Sajjan, the Canadian government requested the military’s help with the resettlement operation on July 30.
Ottawa has also signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Alberta-based Manmeet Singh Bhullar foundation to relocate Sikhs and Hindus displaced by the Taliban offensive.
Canada, as well as other countries including the United States, are working to assist interpreters and other Afghans facing imminent danger amid the US withdrawal from the war-torn country.
Additionally, Canada’s Minister of National Defense Harjit Sajjan confirmed reports that special operations troops have been deployed to Afghanistan to secure remaining staff in the war-torn country as the Taliban advances in its bid to reclaim control of the country.
Late Thursday evening, Global News reported, citing sources, that Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Special Operations Forces were deployed to assist with the evacuation of staff from Canada’s embassy in Kabul.
“Yes, the special forces are involved,” Sajjan told reporters on Friday, declining to divulge any additional details citing security reasons.
Sajjan said Canadian military personnel have been on the ground in Afghanistan for “quite some time” working on contingency plans, noting that the security situation in the war-torn country is deteriorating.
While Ottawa has now confirmed the deployment of troops to Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Marc Garneau declined to address reports that the embassy in Kabul has essentially halted operations ahead of an impending evacuation.
Canada’s defense chief stressed that the safety and security of embassy staff is a “top priority” and that local staff would be accounted for in case of any urgent developments.
Canada is not alone in its scramble to secure remaining resources in Afghanistan.
The United States is deploying three infantry battalions to Kabul consisting of some 3,000 troops to evacuate civilian personnel from Afghanistan. The mission is currently underway with most of the troops expected to be in Afghanistan by the end of the weekend, the Pentagon said on Friday.
Meanwhile, several other Western nations, including Switzerland, have announced the reduction of their diplomatic presence in the Afghan capital.
The activity comes amid a Taliban advance, which has seen the terror group capture 15 of 34 Afghan provincial capitals including Kandahar, Herat and Pol-e-Khomri in a spate of one week.