More than 300 people from Afghanistan arrived in Canada on Wednesday, bringing the total number of Afghans resettled since the Taliban takeover of that country to more than 30,000, the federal government said.
A flight from Pakistan arrived at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport on Wednesday morning.
Those on board included people who helped Canada’s mission in Afghanistan, family members of former interpreters and privately sponsored refugees.
After the Taliban swept to power in August 2021, Canada promised to resettle at least 40,000 Afghans through a number of special programs.
Ottawa has faced criticism for its chaotic attempts to get people to safety as the Taliban took over Kabul. Many have pointed out that Canada closed its embassy earlier than other countries did.
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The federal government says it is now on track to reach the 40,000 target by the end of 2023, but it acknowledges in a news release that there will be significant challenges.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked about expanding that target Wednesday. He said only that the government would look at next steps once 40,000 people are resettled.
“We’re continuing to work on fulfilling those numbers and we’ll look to what we can and must do in the future in other ways,” Trudeau told a press conference in Winnipeg.
Canada is prioritizing the most vulnerable Afghans, “including woman leaders, human-rights defenders, persecuted and religious minorities, 2SLGBTQI+ individuals and journalists,” said a news release from the Immigration Department.
As of the end of March, 18,000 people had applied to come to Canada as part of a special immigration program meant for people who helped Canadian diplomats and troops during the Afghanistan mission, as well as their families.
So far, 11,990 applications had been approved but only 9,875 Afghans had arrived in Canada by March 30, according to data published by the Immigration Department.
Another special program has been created to help the extended family members of former interpreters who are already living in Canada. The government says it aims to bring 5,000 people in through that stream, and 1,285 had arrived by the end of March.
Another 15,875 people who fall under government-assisted and privately sponsored refugee programs were in Canada by that time.