Following the withdrawal of United States forces from Afghanistan earlier in August, the Afghan government fell last week, despite predictions that the regime would hold on for at least another month. The speed of the Taliban advance surprised the world and culminated in the flight of the Afghan government and the capture of Kabul on August 15. As the world was caught unaware, the situation in Kabul has become desperate as nations including Canada and the United States scramble to evacuate personnel. Scenes from the Kabul airport show hundreds of people packed into military cargo planes, and hundreds more attempting to secure a flight out of the country. Flights have been arriving in Canada from Afghanistan, and will continue to arrive as Canada plans to fly regular flights into Afghanistan in order to evacuate more people.
As the collapse of the Afghan government was predicted around the world, albeit at a slower pace, Canada had already started to bring refugees into Canada, with the first refugees arriving on August 5. As of August 5, it was thought that there would be much more time to safely evacuate more refugees. In spite of the rapidly changing situation, the Canadian government has already released a plan in order to help the Afghan people who have been impacted by the conflict.
As of August 13, Canada has expanded its resettlement program in order to bring more Afghans to safety. The Canadian government announced that Canada will resettle 20,000 vulnerable Afghans threatened by the Taliban who have been forced to flee Afghanistan. The government has stated that Canada will continue to implement special immigration programs for Afghans who contributed to Canada’s efforts in Afghanistan. Also, there will be a new program introduced that will focus on particularly vulnerable groups that are already welcomed in Canada through existing resettlement programs, including women, human rights defenders, journalists, persecuted religious minorities, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and family members of previously resettled interpreters.
Speaking on the situation, Minister of Immigration Marco Mendicino said:
“Offering refuge to the world’s most vulnerable speaks to who we are as Canadians, particularly in times of crisis. As more Afghan refugees continue to seek shelter in Canada, we’re redoubling our efforts to help 20,000 Afghans refugees—who remain vulnerable wherever they go—find safety here. The situation in Afghanistan is heartbreaking, and Canada will not stand idly by.”
In order to apply for the special programs for Afghan nationals, those eligible can visit the Canadian government website, as the Canadian embassy in Afghanistan has suspended operations. Unlike some other programs, applicants do not need to be present in Afghanistan or return to Afghanistan in order to apply. Unlike other refugee programs, there is a special program for those who assisted the government of Canada in Afghanistan.
In order to be eligible under this program, you need to be an Afghan national whose employment involved a significant and/or enduring relationship with the government of Canada. Examples of who may be eligible under this program are interpreters who worked with the Canadian armed forces, staff who worked at the Embassy of Canada to Afghanistan and others. Further, applicants had to have been in Afghanistan on or after July 22, 2021, and would otherwise be inadmissible to Canada.
If you did not assist the government of Canada in Afghanistan, you can still apply under the Humanitarian program for Afghan nationals in need of resettlement. This program will be available to Afghan nationals who are outside of Afghanistan and do not have a durable solution in a third country. This group will further include people such as women leaders, human rights advocates, journalists, and people who assisted Canadian journalists, persecuted religious minorities, LGBTQIA+ individuals and immediate family members of someone who fits into one of the aforementioned categories. There is additional eligibility for extended family members of people who helped the Government of Canada who have already been resettled to Canada. This includes family members still in Afghanistan.
In order to be resettled within Canada, refugees can be government-assisted or privately sponsored. Government-assisted refugees must be referred to Canada by the United Nations Refugee Agency or another designated referral agency. You cannot apply directly. The privately sponsored refugees program lets groups sponsor eligible refugees who are part of an eligible group. Sponsor groups support a refugee for the sponsorship period, which is usually up to one year and includes support for the refugee in the form of start-up costs, such as furniture and housing, monthly support for housing, food and transportation, and social and emotional support.
If you are in Afghanistan or are an Afghan national in a different country, there are options available to you in order to come to Canada. If you want to come to Canada, make sure to investigate which option would be best for you and your family.
Garson Immigration Law is a firm exclusively dedicated to the practice of immigration law. We successfully guide clients through the immigration process, with an eye toward the ever-changing regulations in light of COVID-19. We will work to find an effective solution for your individual immigration needs and ensure you are positioned for success with respect to your application.
The immigration lawyers at Garson Immigration Law are continuing to monitor the immigration fallout in relation to COVID-19 on both sides of the border and will provide updates as the situation develops. If you have any questions about your potential classification as essential or about how you should comply with the changing regulations, do not hesitate to reach out to us online or by calling us at 416-321-2860.
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