First planeload of Afghan human rights defenders has landed in Ottawa

January 13, 2022
Immigration Minister Sean Fraser rises during Question Period, in Ottawa, Dec. 10, 2021. Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press

Six months after the federal government promised to help thousands of Afghan women leaders, human- rights activists and journalists flee to Canada, the first planeload has landed.

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser announced the arrival of 252 Afghan refugees on Tuesday, including the first 170 admitted through a special program for people the government deems to be human-rights defenders.

It is a privilege to welcome today this cohort of Afghan refugees, who face persecution as a result of their work to protect the human rights of others,” Mr. Fraser said in a statement.

“I am grateful for their work to document and prevent human rights abuses and proud that they now call our country home.”

The Liberal government launched the special program in July after weeks of criticism from angry Canadian veterans upset Ottawa wasn’t doing more to help Afghans facing possible Taliban reprisals for having worked with Canada in the past.

Mr. Fraser’s office said the 170 who arrived through the special program had been referred to Canada by the Ireland-based human-rights organization Front Line Defenders, which has been working to identify those most at risk.

The Liberals have promised to resettle 40,000 Afghan refugees to Canada, but nearly all of those are expected to be people living in UN camps in Pakistan and other neighbouring countries.

With Monday’s arrivals, the government says it has so far resettled about 6,750 Afghan refugees in Canada. Fraser suggested last month that it could take up to two years for the government to meet its promise of bringing in 40,000 Afghans.

Veterans and refugee groups aren’t the only ones who have lamented the pace of the government’s efforts when it comes to helping Afghans escape to Canada, with opposition parties also joining the chorus of criticism in recent months.

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-first-afghan-human-rights-activists-arrive-six-months-after-ottawas/

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