Skip to main content

Afghan refugees walk down the stairs of a charter jet and load onto a bus at a private terminal at Pearson Airport in Mississauga, Ont., on Thursday.J.P. MOCZULSKI/The Globe and Mail

The first charter plane carrying privately sponsored Afghan refugees arrived in Toronto on Thursday.

The group of about 250 people will start their new lives in Canada, be welcomed into their sponsor communities, and quarantine with the help of their private sponsors, said a press release from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, or IRCC.

“For those newly arrived in our big, cold country, private sponsors offer a warm welcome. It’s no wonder that many refugees think of their sponsors as family. As we welcome Afghan refugees, private sponsors are essential in helping vulnerable newcomers thrive in their new communities. I look forward to welcoming many more new arrivals in the weeks and months to come,” said Immigration Minister Sean Fraser in the statement.

Private sponsors assist refugees settle into their new homes by helping cover expenses like food, rent or clothing. They help refugees find schools, or open a bank account. In addition to this support, privately sponsored refugees are also eligible for the same government-funded settlement services as other newcomers.

The newly arrived refugees are part of Canada’s promise to welcome vulnerable Afghan refugees, including female leaders, human rights activists, persecuted minorities, LGBTQ individuals and journalists. This humanitarian program is in addition to special immigration measures Ottawa announced to help resettle Afghans who worked for Canada during and after its military mission in the country.

Afghanistan’s ambassador remains in Ottawa with no government to report to

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser offers no timeline on resettling Afghan refugees as desperation grows

The Liberal government promised months ago that it would resettle 40,000 Afghan refugees, many of whom could not escape the country before the Taliban returned to power in August. They have since found themselves in desperate situations inside Afghanistan and in neighbouring countries, waiting for the IRCC to approve their applications. So far, fewer than 4,000 Afghan refugees have arrived and more than 9,500 people inside Afghanistan are approved and waiting to come to Canada.

Afghans waiting to leave the country have said the Canadian government has abandoned them, and those who worked alongside Canada’s military and with the embassy said they are fearful of Taliban reprisals. Meanwhile, the country has plunged into a worsening economic and food crisis.

Mr. Fraser told The Globe and Mail in a recent interview that he couldn’t set a date for when all 40,000 refugees would be resettled in Canada. He said capacity of referral organizations in third countries, which identify vulnerable refugees and recommend them to Canada, and extraordinary challenges within Afghanistan, make it difficult to commit to a timeline.

Mr. Fraser said as Afghans hang on to every word he says, it would not be fair to “start putting potentially arbitrary markers down.” The biggest challenge, Mr. Fraser said, is helping people inside Afghanistan because of the Taliban.

Earlier this week, Conservative immigration critic Jasraj Singh Hallan wrote a letter to Mr. Fraser, calling on him to immediately commit to a timeline to deliver on the government’s promise to bring Afghan nationals to Canada.

“Words without action or a plan are useless. As the Taliban’s grasp of Afghanistan tightens and their hunt for remaining allies continues, now is the time for action. Lives are at stake,” he wrote.

Know what is happening in the halls of power with the day’s top political headlines and commentary as selected by Globe editors (subscribers only). Sign up today.