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US Refers More Than 5,000 Afghan Refugees to Canada


In this August 17, 2021, image by Mohammad Ehsan Saadat shows, Ehsan Saadat, a 33-year-old Afghan, who recently arrived in Canada, with his wife and his children in Toronto. (Photo by FAMILY HANDOUT/ AFP)
US Refers More Than 5,000 Afghan Refugees to Canada
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The United States State Department has referred more than 5,000 Afghan refugees seeking admission to the United States to a partner program in Canada. Wait times for refugees there are shorter.

“We are working with Canada to refer up to 5,000 refugees to Canada, independent of our ongoing efforts for U.S. resettlement,” a State Department spokesman told VOA.

On the Canadian side, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said Afghan refugees referred by the U.S. are coming to Canada from third countries. They have been living in those countries since fleeing Afghanistan.

Rescue efforts

Newly formed groups like Operation North Star and Task Force Pineapple are working to rescue those still in Afghanistan. Such groups formed after the Taliban takeover of the country last August.

But getting people out of Afghanistan is just part of the problem.

The Operation North Star website says they have almost 500 Afghans in third countries and more than 2,000 Afghans in safe homes in Afghanistan.

The process to move to the United States is a difficult one for refugees. It includes finding safe houses, leaving Afghanistan, finding a third country, applying to a refugee program, and then arriving in a new country.

The U.S. immigration system has many complex laws related to refugees entering the United States. The full process can take two to five years.

Some private groups are looking to other countries as permanent homes for refugees because of slow U.S. processing.

Immigration-friendly Canada is a favored place.

Since October 1, 2021, 133 Afghans have been admitted into the U.S. through the U.S. Refugee Admission Program. A total 1,545 refugees have been admitted through the Special Immigrant Visa program. That program is for those people who worked for the U.S. government in Afghanistan.

Afghan refugees are welcomed after arriving in Canada on Aug. 4, 2021. (Cpl Rachael Allen/Canadian Forces Combat Camera/Handout)
Afghan refugees are welcomed after arriving in Canada on Aug. 4, 2021. (Cpl Rachael Allen/Canadian Forces Combat Camera/Handout)

Resettlement to Canada

Once the U.S. identifies Afghan refugees who meet certain requirements, they are accepted for resettlement to Canada.

Jeffrey MacDonald is the communications officer at IRCC. He said that, as government-assisted refugees, Afghans become permanent residents on arrival and can use the country’s Resettlement Assistance Program.

The Canadian government provides temporary housing and up to 12 months of financial support.

MacDonald said in an email to VOA that monthly financial support levels for housing, food, and other costs depend on where in Canada the refugees live. They also depend on the size of the family.

The Canadian government has promised to accept 40,000 Afghan refugees. That includes the 5,000 people being referred through the partnership with the U.S.

Since last August, Canada has admitted a little over 8,800 Afghan refugees.

I’m Susan Shand.

Sultan Anshori reported this story for Reuters. Gregory Stachel adapted it for VOA Learning English.

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Words in This Story

refer – v. to send (someone or something) to a particular person or place for treatment, help, or advice

apply – v. to ask formally for something (such as a job, admission to a school, or a loan) usually in writing

resident – n. someone who lives in a particular place

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