Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino says a plan is being finalized to bring Afghan interpreters and their families to Canada “as quickly as possible.”
The interpreters and other contractors, who worked for the Canadian Armed Forces during the Afghanistan war, now face retribution and possibly death from a resurgent Taliban.
Mendicino said his department is working with Global Affairs and the Department of National Defence to finalize “an operational plan that would create a corridor for Afghan interpreters, locally engaged staff and their families.”
“We’ve already got teams on the ground who are assessing the security situation. Our intention is to put this operation into action as quickly as possible,” he told The Current‘s guest host Mark Kelley.
Mendicino did not specify a time frame or the process for the evacuations.
Afghan interpreters worked with Canadian troops during the war to connect them with local leaders, translate conversations and help build trust on the ground. Considered traitors by some in their country, translators say they live in fear of being attacked or killed.
In 2009, Canada offered refuge to approximately 800 interpreters facing life-threatening risks in Afghanistan, but others have been left behind because they didn’t meet strict requirements set out by the federal government. Canadian military involvement in Afghanistan formally ended in 2014.
The Taliban has retaken control of several areas in recent weeks as the last remaining U.S. and NATO troops withdraw, leaving interpreters feeling more vulnerable than ever.
Last month, the U.S. announced plans to evacuate tens of thousands of Afghan interpreters and others who worked with U.S. forces during the war, while their applications for U.S. entry are processed. Interpreters who supported the British military were flown to the U.K. earlier this week, Sky News reported.
When asked if Canada would consider a similar move, Mendicino said “all of the options are still on the table.”
“We know that lives are hanging in the balance, and we know that there’s a need to take timely and decisive action to support the Afghans who supported our armed forces,” he said.
“But we have to be sure that we have the measures in place to protect the Afghans that we want to offer a corridor for, as well as the team who will be there to support them, so that we can pull off this effort with as much safety and security as is required.”
Written by Padraig Moran, with files from Kirsten Fenn. Produced by Paul MacInnis and Ines Colabrese.
Hear full episodes of The Current on CBC Listen, our free audio streaming service.