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Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Excerpt from Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Afghan Refugees

Hon. Marty Deacon: Honourable senators, my question is for the Government Representative in the Senate.

Before Christmas, you will recall that I talked about the importance of the work involved in getting Afghans out of Afghanistan. At this moment, I would like to talk about the ones who have arrived in Canada.

Canada was committed to bringing in 40,000 Afghan refugees who are escaping persecution at the hands of the Taliban. Of the 7,200 people that Canada has admitted so far, many are stuck in limbo and, in fact, are languishing in hotel rooms around the country. I have spoken with some refugees who have been offered asylum and have arrived, but they are still awaiting their permanent resident cards. In fact, I have sat down and tried to complete this daunting paper work online with them.

As you no doubt appreciate, without this document they cannot work, access education for themselves or their children, obtain health care or start a new life. Some of them are incredible and have gotten jobs but cannot go to work. They are highly motivated professionals who, in spite of trauma, are desperate to carry on their lives and start their families. Volunteers, it seems, are carrying a great load in this work.

What is the government doing to expedite this process in Canada for those who have made the harrowing journey to our country so they can make a new life and begin truly contributing to our rich and diverse way of life here in Canada?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for your question. The government is working hard to ensure the proper treatment of all of the applications to which you refer. It is also working very hard to make sure that the living conditions of those who are awaiting the resolution of their applications, the completion of the process, are well taken care of.

It is working with a network of highly trained resettlement assistance program service providers to accommodate as many as possible, and is in constant contact with those service providers to ensure they are meeting the needs of those for whom they are responsible. There are daily reports on the situation in hotels. The government is gathering, through these service providers, input and feedback from those who benefit from the various assistance programs offered to them.

Senator M. Deacon: In January, some Western countries were in talks with the Taliban directly in Oslo. I’m wondering today what the Government of Canada is planning to do, if it is planning to do the same as this group or where they fit in this very important conversation.

Senator Gold: The Government of Canada, in particular through the Minister of Foreign Affairs, is in regular contact with its allies and is keeping a close eye on the situation in Afghanistan and making sure it is doing its part to assist in this humanitarian crisis.


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