Sight Magazine – Canada agrees to resettle Afghans detained in UAE facilities, sources say

Dubai, United Arab Emirates/Washington DC, United States

Canada will accept some 1,000 Afghans who fled the Taliban takeover of their homeland and who have been held for months in a makeshift refugee center in the United Arab Emirates awaiting resettlement in the United States and elsewhere , said seven sources.

Ottawa has accepted a US request to resettle some of the 5,000 Afghans still at Emirates Humanitarian City in Abu Dhabi, the sources said, and Canadian officials were now reviewing cases to identify those who meet Ottawa’s resettlement criteria.

Afghan refugees who supported Canada’s mission in Afghanistan prepare to board buses after arriving in Canada, at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport on August 24, 2021. PHOTO: MCpl Geneviève Lapointe/ Forces Combat Camera Canadian Forces/Canadian Armed Forces Photo/Handout via Reuters.

This is the first known opportunity for Afghans in the settlement to be resettled to a country with which they have no direct ties, for example having worked with their government in Afghanistan.

Canada’s criteria for resettlement of those in the establishment include religious minorities, single women, civil servants, social activists and journalists, the sources said.

In addition to the 1,000 people Canada is taking in at the request of the United States, Ottawa is also expected to bring about 500 other Afghans from the facility who have ties to Canada, the sources said.

“It is happening,” said a US source, who asked not to be further identified, confirming the Canadian resettlement operation which is expected to begin this month and end in October.

Asked about the arrangement, the Canadian Embassy in Abu Dhabi shared a statement from the Department of Immigration indicating that Ottawa’s priority was to help vulnerable Afghans get to Canada.

Emirati authorities and the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi did not respond to requests for comment.

Mohammad, who said he was legal counsel for US government projects in Afghanistan, told Reuters from the establishment that he and his family had applied for resettlement in Canada because the processing of their special visa applications American immigration had taken so long.

“Due to the delays, we have decided to put our names on the list,” Mohammad said in a phone interview on condition that his last name not be disclosed. Like other Afghans there, he described conditions at the facility as similar to “jail”.

“We have no freedom. We can’t go anywhere.

Mohammad and his family are Hazaras, a predominantly Shia Muslim ethnic minority.

Canada’s decision to accept the Afghans brings the temporary refugee center closer to closing, although sources said there were about 1,000 others who were not eligible for relocation to the United States and would have need to be relocated elsewhere.

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The United Arab Emirates, a close security partner of the United States, agreed last year to temporarily house several thousand Afghans evacuated from Kabul as the Taliban overthrew the US-backed government during of the final stages of the US-led withdrawal.

More than 10,000 have since been transferred from the installation in the United States, while others have been resettled in countries with which they had ties, for example by working with their government in Afghanistan.

Protests have erupted sporadically at the facility, including last month, over what Afghans complain about a lack of communication and transparency in the resettlement process. There was at least one suicide attempt, according to sources and central Afghans.

The statement from Canada’s immigration ministry said Ottawa plans to resettle at least 40,000 vulnerable Afghans to Canada by 2024. More than 17,650 have been resettled, it added.

Like other Gulf states, the UAE is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and generally does not accept refugees. Foreign diplomats said some Afghans had rejected job offers in the United Arab Emirates because there was no clear path to citizenship.

US officials said no one would be forcibly returned to Afghanistan and that Washington was working with the United Arab Emirates and other countries to find “resettlement options” for Afghans ineligible for resettlement in the United States.

The United States has so far welcomed more than 85,000 Afghans since August 2021.