Group of people migrating to different parts of the world

The Government of Canada continues to be deeply concerned by the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and the risks it poses for many vulnerable Afghans. Canada’s special immigration program has already brought many Afghans to Canada—and our teams there, here and across the world are working around the clock to bring as many people as possible to safety.

As the Taliban continues to take over more of Afghanistan, Afghans’ lives are under threat—and many have already fled the country. To help address the growing humanitarian crisis, the Honourable Marco E. L. Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, the Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence, and the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today announced that Canada will resettle 20,000 vulnerable Afghans threatened by the Taliban and forced to flee Afghanistan.

As the Taliban retake control of Afghanistan, the Canadian government has launched several programs to help Afghans move to Canada.

“Canada will build on its earlier special immigration programme to welcome over 20,000 vulnerable Afghan refugees,” Mendicino said. “Our efforts focus on those who are particularly vulnerable, including women leaders.”

The Taliban made rapid advances in Afghanistan this week, toppling six provincial capitals in 24 hours. According to news agencies citing the local media, the insurgents seized both the second and the third biggest cities in the country on Friday, as resistance from government forces crumbled and fears grew that an assault on the capital Kabul could be just days

The government has created a special immigration program for Afghans who helped Canadian troops.

  • Canada is implementing special immigration measures for Afghan nationals, and their families, who have a significant and/or enduring relationship with the Government of Canada.
  • Canada will implement a program focused on vulnerable Afghan nationals outside of Afghanistan, including women leaders, human rights advocates, LGBTI individuals, journalists, immediate family members of individuals in Canada and extended family members of previously resettled interpreters.

On Friday, two days before it called an election, the governing Liberal Party of Canada also committed to resettling 20,000 refugees fleeing Afghanistan.

The Canadian government will focus on vulnerable groups such as women, human rights defenders, journalists, persecuted religious minorities, LGBTI individuals, and family members of previously resettled interpreters.

Canada is looking to act fast in order to offer any meaningful help to Afghans fleeing the Taliban. The first plane of the new government-assisted refugees arrived on August 4. The new arrivals had been screened for admissibility (health, security, and criminality) as well as COVID-19.

The unfolding situation in Afghanistan may prove to be a major campaign issue leading up to the Canadian election set for September 20.

Between 2001 and 2014, Canada joined the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan as a result of the 9/11 attacks.

In all, Canada resettled 23,000 Afghan refugees between 2001 and June 2021, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) data.

There are parallels between the attention currently being drawn to this story in Canada with the attention garnered by the Syrian refugee crisis leading up to the 2015 Canadian election.

In September 2015, the hearts and minds of Canadians were captivated by the heartbreaking image of three-year-old Alan Kurdi’s body washing to shore as his family sought to escape the war in Syria. Public opinion galvanized the Liberals to commit to welcoming at least 25,000 Syrian refugees and a month later they were voted into a majority government.

This time around, Canadians woke up this past weekend to images and stories of the Taliban reclaiming control of Afghanistan. This included shocking footage of Afghans falling from the airplanes they were hoping would take them to safety.

Unlike 2015, the Canadian government has already made a pledge going into the 2021 election to assist refugees affected by a crisis currently consuming the minds of Canadians. However the gravity of the situation in Afghanistan will compel opposition parties, namely the Conservative Party of Canada and the National Democratic Party (NDP) to outline what they will do to address the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan should they form government following the upcoming election.

Although foreign policy and immigration issues rarely impact Canadian elections, the situation in Afghanistan will likely garner significant political attention leading up to the September 20 vote.

Special program for vulnerable Afghans

IRCC announced a special program to focus on particularly vulnerable Afghan nationals. This includes women leaders, human rights advocates, journalists and those who assisted Canadian journalists, persecuted religious minorities, LGBTI individuals, immediate family members of individuals currently in Canada, and extended family members of previously resettled interpreters.

The program will welcome government-assisted and privately sponsored refugees, along with those sponsored or listed on an application of a family member already in Canada.