DUBAI / WASHINGTON –
Canada will accept about 1,000 Afghans who have fled the Taliban takeover to their homeland and have been held for months at a temporary refugee center in the United Arab Emirates awaiting re-entry. settled in the United States and elsewhere, seven sources said.
Ottawa has agreed to a US request to resettle some of the 5,000 Afghans still in the Emirates Humanitarian City in Abu Dhabi, sources said, and Canadian officials are now reviewing the cases. to identify people who meet Ottawa’s resettlement criteria.
This is the first known occasion of Afghans in the facility being resettled to a country with which they have no direct relationship, such as having worked with their government in Afghanistan.
Canada’s criteria for those resettled from the facility include religious minorities, single women, public servants, activists and journalists, sources said.
In addition to the 1,000 people Canada is receiving at the request of the United States, Ottawa is also expected to receive about 500 more Afghans from the facility with ties to Canada, the sources said.
“It’s happening,” said a US source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirming Canada’s relocation is expected to begin this month and end in October.
When asked about the deal, the Canadian embassy in Abu Dhabi shared a statement from the immigration department that said Ottawa’s priority was to assist vulnerable Afghans coming to Canada.
Emirati authorities and the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi did not respond to a request for comment
Mohammad, who said he was a legal adviser for US government projects in Afghanistan, told Reuters from the facility that he and his family applied for Canadian resettlement because of the processing of the application. The US Special Immigrant Visa has taken too long.
Mohammad said in a phone interview on condition that his last name be kept. Like other Afghans there, he described conditions in the facility as similar to “prison.”
“We have no freedom. We can’t go anywhere.”
Mohammad and his family are Hazaras, an ethnic group that is predominantly Shi’ite.
Canada’s decision to take in Afghans puts the temporary refugee center close to closing, although sources say about 1,000 others are ineligible to be moved to the United States and will need to resettle elsewhere. .
The UAE, a close security partner of the United States, last year agreed to temporarily allow several thousand Afghans to be evacuated from Kabul as the Taliban toppled the US-backed government in the final stages of a withdrawal led by the United States. United States leadership.
More than 10,000 people have been relocated from the base to the United States, while others have been resettled to countries with which they have ties, such as through working with their government in Afghanistan.
Protests have broken out regularly at the facility, including last month, over what Afghans complain about a lack of communication and transparency of the resettlement process. According to sources, the Afghans at the center had at least one suicide attempt.
Immigration Canada’s statement said Ottawa plans to resettle at least 40,000 vulnerable Afghans to Canada by 2024. More than 17,650 people have been resettled, it added.
Like other Gulf states, the UAE is not a signatory to the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention and generally does not accept refugees. Foreign diplomats say some Afghans have turned down job offers in the UAE because there is no clear path to citizenship.
US officials say no one will be forced to return to Afghanistan and Washington is working with the UAE and other countries to find “relocation options” for Afghans who are not eligible for resettlement in America.
To date, the United States has received more than 85,000 Afghans since August 2021.
(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell in Dubai and Jonathan Landay in Washington, Editing by Alistair Bell)