About 250 Afghan evacuees are now on their way to Canada, after a month-long journey to flee their country’s takeover by the Taliban, with the help of a Toronto-based charity.
For four weeks, amid the chaos of the last days of the war in Afghanistan, he traveled hundreds of kilometers across the country, thanks to a visa organized by the Canadian charity, Prince’s Trust Canada, before arriving on Pakistani land.
Most of them have crossed the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan in the past three days, and are expected to start a new life in Saskatoon this fall.
The group, composed primarily of members of the Hazara minority, includes young female students, singers and martial artists whom the Canadian government considers vulnerable under the strict Islamic orders of the new rulers of Afghanistan.
The Hazaras are Shia and have a distinct ethnic origin, which makes them targets of persecution by the Taliban, who practice a fanatical form of Sunni Islam.
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Following the sudden collapse of Afghanistan’s pro-Western government, Canada evacuated about 3,700 Canadian citizens, former interpreters and their relatives from Kabul. But thousands of others were stranded. Canada has committed to resettle about 21,000 Afghans.
“The past few weeks have been a roller coaster as we have sought to get these families out of Afghanistan,” Mark Fell, president of Prince’s Trust Canada, said in an interview on Saturday.
The departure of the Afghans began when Mr Fail received a call from Britain on 21 August.
The Prince’s Trust Canada is part of a network of charities founded by Prince Charles. The organization’s chief executive in London, Dame Martina Milburn, enlisted Mr. Fell to help an organization in Afghanistan that was trying to arrange for a group of thousands to leave the country. For security reasons, Mr. Fell did not identify the institution.
On 13 August, the federal minister of immigration, Marco Mendicino, announced that, in addition to helping the Canadian military to fast-track the resettlement of Afghans, Ottawa would also provide a support for vulnerable groups, such as women leaders and persecuted groups, under the Taliban. Was making a special event. religious minorities.
Within a week, Mr. Fell was able to arrange a visa for the group to Canada. Thousands were expected to exit Kabul, and a small number managed to board a plane and make their way to Mexico and eventually Canada.
However, the evacuation ended with the departure of the last American troops on August 31. Like thousands of other Afghans fearing the new government, the rest of Hazara’s group were unable to enter Kabul’s international airport despite several attempts.
In a feat of logistics, Prince was able to move the Trust and its liaison group in Afghanistan to the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, where many others trying to leave Afghanistan await the resumption of international flights. Were.
The operation, coordinated between people in Canada, Britain and Afghanistan on the WhatsApp messaging service, involved moving more than 200 people into small groups and keeping them away from the Taliban in several safe houses.
Thousands were included in a small group who also had Canadian visas, activists of the Malala Fund, a non-profit co-founded by Pakistani Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai.
When flights from Mazar-i-Sharif did not take place, the group considered traveling to neighboring Uzbekistan because the border crossing – a bridge over the Amu Darya River – was only an hour’s drive away. However, that limit was closed.
On 10 September, Mr Mendicino announced that Canada was able to bring some Afghan citizens through the border with Pakistan, opening a land route for humanitarian resettlement.
Hazara then went south and was able to enter Pakistan on a 30-day visa. They are now hosted privately in the capital, Islamabad. They are expected to be processed and flown to Canada in the coming weeks.
His resettlement in Saskatoon is supported by the federal government. The first evacuees to arrive are now in quarantine, as required by the federal government under its pandemic control measures.
“We see him as safe now in Pakistan and a great future ahead of him in Canada,” Mr. Fell said.
“…bringing this young Afghan community to Canada will help Saskatoon and even Canada flourish.”
As of 12 September, 12,400 applications have been received and 8,200 approved under the program to resettle vulnerable Afghans, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. So far, 2,200 new Afghan refugees have reached Canada, while another 800 are currently in COVID-19 quarantine.
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