Canada Admits Nearly 40,000 Afghans, Willing to Take More

The pledge, made by Ottawa in August 2021 when the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, was driven by concerns for the safety of Afghans who had collaborated with Canadian programs and the former Afghan government.

In the past two years, Canada has successfully assisted the resettlement of at least 39,730 Afghans, as reported by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

More than half of these refugees have been admitted under a humanitarian program specifically tailored for human rights activists, journalists, religious and ethnic minority groups, and LGBTI individuals.

An additional 12,000 Afghans, who had worked for the Canadian government in Afghanistan before 2021, found safety in Canada through a special immigration visa program.

“Canada’s Afghan resettlement commitment is one of the largest on a per capita basis in the world and is second only to that of the United States in overall numbers,” Mary Rose Sabater, IRCC’s communication adviser, told VOA.

Among those resettled across Canada, at least 17,000 are women, many of whom are former government employees, lawmakers and civil society activists.

Afghan women have been disproportionately affected by the Taliban’s rule, which is often referred to as the world’s only gender-apartheid system, denying them fundamental rights such as education and employment.

Even after reaching the commitment of 40,000 Afghan refugees this year, Canada intends to maintain its flexibility in providing shelter to at-risk Afghans in the future.

“Afghans may also be eligible for regular immigration programs, including economic, family reunification and refugee resettlement programs … they may be referred for resettlement by the United Nations Refugee Agency and other organizations. Canadians can also continue to privately sponsor Afghan refugees,” Sabater said.

Canada’s government has earmarked approximately $615 million ($844.3 million Canadian) in resettlement services for the Afghan refugees including a 12-month income support program that pays for accommodation, food and health care.

Permanent residents

One distinctive aspect of Canada’s approach is the ease with which Afghans become permanent legal residents upon their arrival.

“Canada processes refugees overseas before admitting them to Canada,” said Sabater.

After residing in Canada for five years, of which three must be spent within the country, these permanent residents will be eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship.

In contrast, the United States is currently navigating legislative hurdles to approve the Afghan Adjustment Act, which is expected to establish legal pathways for long-term residence and naturalization of tens of thousands of Afghans who entered the U.S. under humanitarian parole in 2021.

While the act is mired in Congressional debates, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently extended the parole deadline until May 2025.

The U.S. military airlifted 124,000 individuals out of Kabul in August 2021 of which at least 77,000 were offered a temporary humanitarian parole in the United States.

“After reviewing the country conditions in Afghanistan and consulting with interagency partners, Secretary [Alejandro] Mayorkas determined that an 18-month TPS [temporary parole status] extension and redesignation is warranted because conditions, including armed conflict, that support Afghanistan’s TPS designation are ongoing,” the DHS said in a statement.

Canada Admits Nearly 40,000 Afghans, Willing to Take More