Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino today described the policy change as an extension of the resettlement program announced late last month. The announcement amounted to the Trudeau government’s recognition of the worsening crisis in Afghanistan and the fear that after nearly two decades of relentless guerrilla warfare, the hardline Taliban movement might be on the verge of toppling the government. by President Ashraf Ghani.
Activists have swept through northern, western and southern parts of the country and are expected to isolate Kabul soon.
The newly improved federal program focuses on those who have fled the country or are in the process of fleeing it. It will include families of already immigrant performers, female leaders, members of minorities targeted by the Taliban and journalists.
“We are showing tangible leadership,” Mendocino said at a quick Friday afternoon press conference that included Foreign Minister Marc Garneau, Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan and Minister for Women and Gender Equality Maryam Monsef, who is an Afghan immigrant.
The initial plan was the subject of strong criticism
The government initially announced a special immigration program for interpreters who worked with the Canadian military and other government agencies. He then faced a storm of criticism from those who were excluded, including previously resettled performers who fear for their loved ones still in the country.
Mendocino said the operation is being conducted under “extremely difficult circumstances” and will continue in close cooperation with allies, such as the United States and Britain.
Responding to criticism about how quickly the current military interpreter program is working, Mendocino said the government recognizes the urgency of the situation as the Taliban increasingly conquer the country.
Sajjan confirmed that special forces troops were operating on the ground in Afghanistan, but declined to say specifically what they were doing regarding securing the Canadian embassy.
To date, four relief flights carrying Afghan interpreters – two servicemen, two under contract – have arrived in Canada. The last one landed this afternoon.
“It’s very personal,” said Sajjan, who flew three missions to Afghanistan as the Reserve Force Intelligence Liaison Officer. “It’s also very personal for me. We won’t rest until we get everyone out. “
An uncertain future for the embassy
The fate of the Canadian embassy was in question on Friday. Reports from several sources on the ground – as well as from the ex-combatant community, which lobbied to put the interpreters out of harm’s way – said the embassy was closed and stopped making appointments. for biometric analyzes.
Garneau has twice refused to give a clear answer to questions about the current status of the diplomatic mission.
The closure of the embassy in Kabul could affect hundreds of asylum seekers whose claims have yet to be approved.
“The situation is worrying,” Garneau said, referring to the advance of the Taliban. He cited operational security as the reason for his elusive responses.