Canada vows to resettle 20,000 refugees from Afghanistan, as Taliban sweep country

Canada vows to resettle 20,000 refugees from Afghanistan, as Taliban sweep country

17:55 - Canada has announced an expanded program to resettle Afghan refugees as territories in Afghanistan fall rapidly to the Taliban.

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said Friday the program will welcome 20,000 Afghans, targeting those who belong to groups vulnerable to persecution by the Taliban.

Those targeted groups will include: “Women leaders, human rights defenders, journalists, persecuted minorities, LGBTQI members, and family of previously resettled interpreters,” Mendicino said.

The announcement comes as the Canadian government has come under pressure to expedite its program to resettle Afghans who were employed by Canada during its efforts in Afghanistan, such as interpreters.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland on Friday acknowledged what she called Canada’s “moral duty” to help resettle Afghans who have worked for Canadian Forces and the Canadian Embassy.

On July 23, under pressure from the veteran community and advocates, Ottawa announced a new program to expedite the resettlement of its former employees including translators, drivers, cleaners and cooks.

The effort has been plagued by question

Under the extended resettlement program announced Friday, those families will be eligible.

“Canada will do right by those who did right by us,” Mendicino said. “As the Taliban continues to take over more of Afghanistan, many more Afghans are under increasing threat.”

The Taliban completed their sweep of Afghanistan’s south on Friday, taking four more provincial capitals in a lightning offensive that brought them closer to Kabul just weeks before the U.S. is set to officially end its two-decade war.

In the past 24 hours, the country’s second- and third-largest cities — Herat in the west and Kandahar in the south — have fallen to the insurgents, as has the capital of the southern province of Helmand.

The blitz through the Taliban’s southern heartland means the insurgents now hold half of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals and control more than two-thirds of the country. The Western-backed government in the capital, Kabul, still holds a smattering of provinces in the centre and east, as well as the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

While Kabul is not directly under threat yet, the resurgent Taliban were battling government forces in Logar province, some 80 kilometres from the capital. The U.S. military has estimated that Kabul could come under insurgent pressure within 30 days and that the Taliban could overrun the rest of the country within a few months. They have already taken over much of the north and west of the country.

A total of 158 Canadian soldiers died during the Canadian Forces efforts in Afghanistan.

With files from the Associated Press

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