Ottawa is urging Canadians and vulnerable Afghans looking to come to Canada to “stay put” as officials try to secure safe passage for them to get out of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
In a media briefing Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau said there are about 1,250 Canadian citizens and permanent residents, as well as their family members, remaining in the country after the international evacuation effort with allies ended Monday.
“At the moment, our advice to Canadians and Canadian permanent residents in Afghanistan and vulnerable Afghans is to stay put because the situation at this point is uncertain,” said Garneau, who is working with Pakistan to allow safe passage for Afghans through land border.
“We’re trying very hard to get the Taliban to agree to allow people to leave safely. And obviously, we’re also working on trying to get the airport open again.”
Meanwhile, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said Canada has entered into an agreement with the United States to welcome 5,000 Afghan nationals evacuated by the Americans.
“We’re pulling out all the stops to help as many Afghans as possible who want to make their home in Canada. Again, this includes those who either want to leave Afghanistan or who have already arrived in a third country,” he said.
There have been complaints by Afghans looking to come to Canada that the “facilitation letters” issued by Canadian officials are no longer valid.
Mendicino blamed that on the Taliban for “moving the goalposts” on what is expected at checkpoints.
Canada has received more than 2,500 applications from Afghan interpreters and civilians who worked for the Canadian forces, representing 8,000 people in total, since Ottawa rolled out a special immigration program to help those former local staff who have become the targets of the insurgents. Two thirds of those have been processed.
To date, Mendicino said, about 3,700 of these individuals have arrived in Canada and immigration officials will continue to process pending applications and stay in touch with those still trapped in Afghanistan.
On Monday, the United Nations Security Council also adopted a resolution that calls on the Taliban to allow a safe, secure and orderly departure from Afghanistan, other Americans and all foreign nationals, Garneau said.
“This will be the first true test for the Taliban from the international community. We will judge them by their actions, not their words,” he noted.
“Afghans with travel documents to other countries must be allowed to move safely and freely out of the country without interference. Canada and its allies are firm on this point, and we are united.”