June 18th, 2024

Lethbridge ready to welcome Afghan refugees

By Al Beeber on September 18, 2021.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

Arrangements are being made by Lethbridge Family Services to resettle to Lethbridge Afghan citizens who were evacuated after the recent fall of their government to the Taliban.
Refugees, who were given thorough security checks before boarding flights to Canada, are presently being housed in Toronto hotels and undergoing health screenings, said LFS settlement manager Savanna Prociw Thursday.
LFS doesn’t know when the refugees will be coming to Lethbridge but the organization is in “constant connection” with officials in Toronto, said Prociw.
While normally refugees undergo months of intensive screening before coming to Canada, that wasn’t possible in Afghanistan due to the dire circumstances of refugees after the Taliban quickly overtook the country, Prociw said.
“What’s happening is the government of Canada is housing all the evacuees that were removed from Afghanistan. They’re housing them currently in different hotels in Toronto. From there, they’re going through different health screening, their COVID quarantines and after that they’re being resettled into different communities throughout the country,” said Prociw.
“We’re in constant communication with our federal partners to coordinate the movement of these folks out of Ontario into our communities. We haven’t provided any arrival information just yet. The situation changes on a daily basis. But we have been told to standby for arrivals in the very near future,” Prociw added.
The evacuations were a different situation than normal refugee movements to Canada, she said.
“Any refugee or any newcomer who normally comes to Canada would have gone through months of intensive screening before coming here. With the Afghan situation, that process had been disturbed because of obviously the dire circumstances that we saw with the evacuation and the Taliban takeover.
“The government had committed to already resettling several Afghan interpreters and other previous employees to Canada but with the take-over of the Taliban, then we had to see those plane evacuations.
“So that’s why they’ve gone to Toronto first. That’s where they’re staying and they’re completing all the other processes that would normally have taken place overseas.”
The federal government prioritizes security screening, said Prociw.
“I don’t want anybody to think we’re bringing over unscreened refugees,” Prociw said, adding that refugees were highly screened before getting on a plane.
“It’s mostly medical type things; they’re making sure people are healthy. They are in full quarantine while they’re in Toronto at the moment.”
LFS is aware affordable housing is a concern in Lethbridge and like others, they are looking for it to house refugees.
“Affordable housing is a concern throughout the community, not just for newcomers so we have the same struggles as anybody looking for affordable housing at the moment. So we aren’t able to find housing for them until they arrive here to Lethbridge. And then once that happens, we’re part of the same queue as others who are looking for affordable rentals. We always encourage anybody interested in renting to a newcomer to reach out to us.”
Landlords willing to house the newcomers can contact LFS at info@lfsfamily.ca to offer assistance, Prociw said.

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