OTTAWA (Reuters) -Canada plans to resettle more than 20,000 vulnerable Afghans including women leaders, human rights workers and reporters to protect them from Taliban reprisals, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said on Friday.
The effort is in addition to an earlier initiative to welcome thousands of Afghans who worked for the Canadian government, such as interpreters, embassy workers and their families, he told a news conference.
“As the Taliban continues to take over more of Afghanistan, many more Afghans’ lives are under increasing threat,” he said. He did not provide a timetable.
Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan said some Canadian special forces were in Afghanistan taking part in the relocation effort but gave no details.
“The challenges on the ground are quite immense,” he said.
Canada’s new plan would focus on those who are particularly vulnerable, including women leaders, human rights defenders, reporters, persecuted religious minorities and members of the gay and lesbian community, Mendicino said.
It covers both people who want to leave Afghanistan and those already in neighboring countries.
The Taliban have seized Afghanistan’s second- and third-biggest cities as resistance from government forces crumbled.
“We know the situation is dire. It’s getting worse by the hour,” said Mendicino.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren and Steve SchererEditing by Sonya Hepinstall and Richard Chang)