According to Dorothee Birker, communications and development co-ordinator at Kelowna Community Resources (KCR), neither Kelowna nor Kamloops should expect to host refugees from Afghanistan, at least at this time.
In an emailed reply to a query from KTW, Birker explained that while KCR does provide resettlement assistance support for government assisted refugees, those who fled Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban overtaking the country are more likely to settle in the Vancouver area if they come to B.C.
The change in plans is mainly due to the wildfire situation in the Thompson-Okanagan region, Birker said.
Kamloops Immigration Services (KIS) had previously confirmed that discussions were underway between KCR and KIS as to what role Kamloops would take and how many refugee families the city would host. However, the status of those discussions is on hold.
In late July, the federal government first announced its offer of refuge, extended to Afghan nationals who helped Canada while its troops were in Afghanistan.
At that time, the federal government said it was “seized with the urgency of the situation,” vowing to work “quickly” to help those who had supported Canadian forces.
Some of the eligible refugees included those who had worked with the Canadian Armed Forces as interpreters, cooks, drivers, cleaners, along with their immediate family members.
The eligibility requirements for resettlement referral were “based on applicants’ significant or enduring relationship with the Government of Canada” and subject to “usual admissibility requirements, including security, criminal and health screenings,” including screenings for COVID-19.
On Aug. 13, three weeks after the initial declaration, the federal government reaffirmed that it remained “deeply concerned by the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and the risks it poses for many vulnerable Afghans.”
Officials, including Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, announced the government’s intention to resettle 20,000 vulnerable Afghans threatened by the Taliban and forced to flee Afghanistan.
Since that announcement, Taliban forces moved into the Afghan capital of Kabul, where a series of violent altercations, including two suicide bombings this week near the airport, forced evacuation efforts to cease.
Canada’s last flight out of the country took place on Thursday (Aug. 26), while another 500 people were placed on a U.S. aircraft that departed on Friday.
In total, Ottawa reported that it had flown out approximately 3,700 people, of which about 2,000 were citizens of Afghanistan.
There remain Canadians stuck in the country, with the last of American soldiers set to leave the country on Aug. 31.
Troops from the U.S., Canada and other nations entered Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., an attack planned by Osama bin Laden as he and his al-Qaeda group were given shelter in the Asian country by the Taliban.