Online criteria for Afghan refugee program changes, applies to only those who’ve fled
Posted October 25, 2021 5:11 pm.
Last Updated October 25, 2021 5:16 pm.
OTTAWA — The Canadian government has quietly changed the criteria on its website for a special program for vulnerable Afghan refugees so that only those who have already managed to escape to other countries are eligible.
The online criteria for the “special humanitarian program” used to include Afghans “who are in Afghanistan or outside Afghanistan,” but it was changed this month to apply only to those “outside of Afghanistan.”
The program is one of two set up to help bring 40,000 Afghan refugees to Canada and is intended for vulnerable groups including women leaders, persecuted religious or ethnic minorities, LGBTQ people and journalists.
The online criteria for the other program, which is aimed at interpreters and others who helped Canada during its military mission as well as embassy staff, appears to still allow for those inside Afghanistan to apply.
When the government first announced the special humanitarian program in August, it said it would apply to those outside Afghanistan, but it ultimately included those stuck inside the war-torn country in its online criteria.
The government said Monday that the change to the website was a “communications rather than a policy change.”
Stephen Watt of Northern Lights Canada, a refugee organization, said the government’s plan to bring 40,000 Afghans to Canada has been wrapped in secrecy ever since it was announced.
“There is still no clear way to apply to the program, or to discover who it is accepting or how it is operating,” he said. “This is a life and death question for many of the people we are talking to within Afghanistan.
“Our government needs to come clean about its plans for these very vulnerable people who it promised to help in the heat of the election, and provide a clear path for providing that help. This isn’t a time for empty promises and secret processes.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 25, 2021.
Marie Woolf, The Canadian Press