Canada has helped 145 Canadian-bound refugees flee Afghanistan to Pakistan.
A spokesman for Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino says all 145 have Canadian visas and are now being processed in Pakistan and will be on their way to Canada within “days or weeks”.
Alexander Cohen says most of the refugees are Afghans who helped Canada during its military mission in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014 and fear retaliation now that the Taliban have gained control of the country.
They say their numbers include individuals associated with the Malala Foundation, students at Marefat Girls’ School and “fixers” who helped Canadian journalists cover the mission.
In addition to the 3,700 Canadians, Afghan refugees and other country citizens who were driven out of Afghanistan by Canada, the land has been evacuated before US troops completed a frenzied withdrawal from the country in late August.
43 Canadians were evacuated on Thursday on a flight organized by the Qatari government, the first passenger flight to leave Afghanistan since last month. Ten more people were evacuated on Friday on another flight bound for Qatar.
Cohen said the government had started working with allies and neighboring countries before evacuation flights last month to find new routes to safety for Afghan refugees.
“So far, land travel to Pakistan has been the most effective way to get people out of Afghanistan,” he said.
Cohen said officials are working with individuals to make sure they have the necessary documents and with allies, including humanitarian groups, who are helping organize underground convoys of refugees.
He said staff from the Canadian High Commission in Islamabad have been deployed to help process the refugees and are working with the Pakistani government to ensure that border officials are prepared for their arrival.
“We are working with refugees to support them while in Pakistan and facilitate onward travel to Canada, and we will add resources where necessary,” Cohen said.
“We expect more refugees to leave Afghanistan and come to Canada via Pakistan in the coming days and weeks.”
Cohen said so far 2,200 Afghan refugees have settled in Canada, and another 400 are in transit.
The federal government has promised that it will do everything possible to get people out of Afghanistan. It has also promised to accept at least 20,000 refugees who make it to neighboring countries.