(CTN News) – Temporary visas will soon be available for Canadians who are anxious to rescue extended family members in the Gaza Strip, but the government cannot ensure that they will be able to do so.
Marc Miller, Canada’s minister of immigration, highlighted the difficulties of leaving the beleaguered Palestinian enclave when announcing Thursday a new temporary immigration program for Gaza Strip residents with Canadian family.
“We will do our best to help, but we can’t promise safe passage,” Miller stated during a press conference.
As a result of discussions mediated by Qatar, Israel and Egypt maintain strict control over the Rafah border crossing; Canada has no influence over the number of people who cross the border each day. Canada has instead supplied foreign authorities with a list of names to evaluate.
Miller claimed that neither Israel nor Hamas nor Egypt had assured him that any of his extended family members on Canada’s expulsion list would be allowed to depart.
A representative from Global Affairs Canada, Grantly Franklin, stated earlier this month that as of December 15th, there were over 170 Canadians still detained and requesting assistance to evacuate.
According to Miller, the situation in Gaza is “unlivable,” and a temporary visa program is expected to be operational by January 9.
Israa Alsaafin, a Palestinian Canadian, expressed her desire to swiftly relocate her family to safety, despite the lengthy wait until January 9.
This is a long time for us, she remarked at a news conference sponsored by the National Council for Canadian Muslims.
When Alsaafin’s brother, his wife, and their infant fled their home on October 13, Alsaafin lost him. She has been pleading with the Canadian government to assist in the rescue of her father, sister-in-law, and nephew for weeks at this point.
Taking care of her nephew is now her obligation, she stated. “These feelings and emotions should not be experienced by anybody.”
The evacuation of 660 Canadians, permanent residents, and their families from the Gaza Strip has been the primary emphasis of the administration up until this point.
Anyone with a parent, grandparent, sibling, or grandchild living in Canada can apply for permanent residency status shortly. Those members of the extended family’s spouses and children are also eligible.
The minister stated that since the war started, Canada has allowed some individuals to pass over the Rafah border because it has relaxed its rigid definition of family.
The minister announced that individuals must provide their documents in order to depart Gaza. In Cairo, they would be subjected to further screening procedures, including fingerprinting.
Families are advised by the Immigration Department to begin compiling the necessary documentation, such as evidence of familial links, immediately.
According to Miller, Canadians’ extended family members who fulfill the requirements for eligibility and admissibility will be granted three-year visas.
He estimates that hundreds of people will be able to enter Canada through the scheme, though he is unsure of the exact number.
Canadians with extended family members in the war zone have been pleading for months, and the NDP has also made an appeal, leading to the exceptional immigration rules.
Members of the New Democrat Party, including Jenny Kwan, expressed their approval of the move in a statement released on Thursday.
“For far too long, families have been anticipating this day.”
According to Palestinian Canadian Fayza Alashi, many families have lost loved ones in Gaza; nonetheless, their current concern is for the safety of those who are still alive.
Despite its tardiness, she deemed it a “good decision” during the NCCM news conference.
Miller further announced that a free study or open work permit can be applied for by the spouses and children of Canadian citizens and permanent residents who have already arrived in Canada after fleeing Gaza, the West Bank, or Israel since October 7.
Those Palestinians and Israelis now residing in Canada who are afraid for their safety can also apply for the fee-free study or open employment permits, according to Miller.
On October 7, Hamas attacked Israel, turning Gaza into a battleground and murdering 1,200 Israeli civilians and soldiers.
Around twenty thousand people, including civilians and combatants, have lost their lives in Gaza as a result of the retaliatory siege, bombardments, and ground attacks, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.
Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, referred to the delay in providing protection to Canadians’ extended relatives as “incredibly difficult” when asked about the explanation.
According to Trudeau, the best course of action is to make sure that a Palestinian state can exist and coexist peacefully with Israel.
In his remarks on Thursday in Toronto, Trudeau acknowledged that Canada, a nation known for its diversity, has a significant role to play in uniting people and contributing to the construction of a better future.
He made an effort to understand the suffering that Canadians are experiencing as a result of the war in the Middle East.
While nations strive for a long-term truce, he urged humanitarian pauses in the fighting in Gaza. However, he insisted that Hamas must disarm, release Israeli hostages, and abstain from any future involvement in Gaza’s administration before a truce could be considered.