Joint Letter to Immigration Minister
On July 29, 26 Canadian MPs wrote a joint letter to Immigration Minister, Marco Mendicino, calling for a special program to bring Afghan Sikh and Hindu refugees to Canada as soon as possible. You can read the letter here.
Call to Action
Engage Federal Politicians!
1/ Push the Canadian government for a direct sponsorship program from Afghanistan for the local Sikh and Hindu communities still there (similar to the program provided to Syrians).
2/ Push the Canadian government to expedite processing of files for the approximately 44 already privately sponsored Afghan Sikh and Hindu families. Email your local MP and MPs from our curated list.
Scroll down for background information, template letters, and MP contact information.
As you may know, Gurdwara Guru Har Rai in Shor Bazaar, Kabul, Afghanistan, was attacked on March 25, 2020. Several attackers raided the gurdwara premises, killing 25 and injuring 8, after holding a 150+ community hostage inside the complex which included men, women and children. Of the deceased, one is a 3 year old child. And later, the community was further traumatized as a bomb was detonated beside the cremation site of the deceased Sikhs. The Daesh (Islamic State) has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Without internal flight options or prospects of meaningful integration in neighboring countries, international resettlement is the only viable solution for Afghan Sikh and Hindu asylum seekers. India is not a settlement option for these refugees as India is not a signatory to the 1951 Convention on Refugees and offers no supports or resources. Afghan Sikh and Hindu refugees who have settled in India continue to lack access to basic services such as medical care, education, etc. While India has passed the Citizenship Amendment Act, it does not apply to Sikhs currently residing in Afghanistan or refugees after December 31, 2014. Therefore, the WSO is requesting a direct sponsorship program from Afghanistan for members of these vulnerable communities who face constant threat and fear for their lives since 2016.
Approximately 15 privately sponsored Afghan Sikh and Hindu families have arrived in Canada with approximately 40 families awaiting the processing of their files in India. Therefore, the WSO also requests that these files be processed on an expedited basis and these families be allowed to quickly start their lives here in Canada.
Previous Government Engagement History:
- In 2016 the WSO presented to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration on the plight of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus, you can read our brief submitted to parliamentarians here.
- A brief clip of WSO's legal counsel, Balpreet Singh, presenting can be watched here.
E-Mail Template for MPs
Save Afghan Sikhs and Hindus - Emergency
Dear [INSERT MP/MINISTER NAME]
Emergency - The Immediate Direct Sponsorship of Afghan Sikh and Hindu Refugees Needed
I am writing to you at a time of great urgency. As you may be aware, on the morning of March 25th we were awoken to the news of Daesh (Islamic State) attacking a Sikh Gurdwara (place of worship) in Kabul, Afghanistan, killing 25 people, and injuring 8 after holding a 150+ community hostage inside the complex which included men, women and children. Of the deceased, one is a 3 year old child. And later, the community was further traumatized as a bomb was detonated beside the cremation site of the deceased Sikhs.
Sikhs and Hindus are a very small community in Afghanistan- approximately 1000 people, a number which has significantly decreased from 200,000 in the 1980s. They live primarily in Kabul, Jalalabad and Ghazni. This minority group has faced and continues to face persecution at the hands of the local communities as well as Islamic militant groups. Under Taliban rule in the 1990s, Sikhs were forced to identify themselves by wearing yellow armbands. In July of 2018, a group of Sikhs and Hindus was attacked by an Islamic State suicide bomber in Jalalabad, killing 19 people. The miniscule community has faced and continues to face very clear and grave danger living in this country.
Afghan Sikhs have described the horrors of living as a visible minority in Afghanistan, and appealed for refugee status outside of the country. “Without internal flight options, or prospects of meaningful integration in neighboring countries, international resettlement is the only viable solution for Afghan Sikh and Hindu asylum seekers (WSO, 2020).” India is not a settlement option for these refugees as it is not a signatory to the 1951 Convention on Refugees, does not include Afghan Sikhs in its recently passed Citizenship Amendment Act, and fails to provide access to basic services such as medical care and education for those who have resettled in India (WSO, 2020).
The direct sponsorship of this very vulnerable community is needed with great urgency, especially following the March 25, 2020 attack. Forcing the community to travel to a neighbouring country to begin the refugee process puts their lives at risk and likely not possible given their lack of financial resources.
Alberta MLA Manmeet Singh Bhullar started the process of resettlement of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus in Canada prior to his death in 2015. Later, the World Sikh Organization along with the Manmeet Singh Bhullar Foundation, was able to successfully organize the private sponsorship of 15 Afghan Sikh and Hindu families who arrived in Canada last year and have successfully resettled. Unfortunately, there are approximately 40 families still in the process. I am also requesting your help in ensuring that the files for these families be processed on an expedited basis.
I hope to hear from you soon with how you can help us save the lives of the Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan.
Please find a list of priority contacts curated by the WSO here.
If you want to find your local MP, you can also use this easy tool.
If you wish to support the WSO #SaveAfghanSikhs advocacy campaign, please donate here*
*Please note: It is not possible to send money directly to Afghanistan at this time due to the conditions on the ground. Any money donated will be used for advocacy efforts here in Canada. We are not officially affiliated with any GoFundMe pages or any other fundraising efforts. We ask that you please ask questions to any individuals or organizations fundraising claiming that the money will go directly to the Sikhs in Afghanistan.
Do You Want To Be A Sponsor?
WSO's primary objective is pushing for direct sponsorship of our Afghan brother and sisters to Canada. However, if direct sponsorship does not work, then we will pursue working with organizations and Gurdwaras across the world to privately sponsor families.
Each family that comes to Canada must be sponsored through the Government of Canada’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program. Sponsors are required to pledge a minimum of $7,600 per person (subject to change based on Governments mandate) and deposit funds in trust. Sponsors are responsible for supporting and helping settle refugee families for at least one year after their arrival.
Due to the overwhelming response from the community, WSO is looking to create a list of individuals who would like to sponsor a family or support the cause. Please note that multiple people can sponsor one family together.
If you wish to be put on a list of potential sponsors, please click here to fill out a Google Form.
Your information will be kept private and confidential.
Individuals will only be contacted should we be required to go the private sponsorship route.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
1. Why is it not possible to donate directly to Afghan families who have lost loved ones?
There is currently no channel or system to directly donate to families in Afghanistan. Sending money to Afghanistan directly is risky and can raise concerns around terror financing, etc. We understand Afghan Sikhs are working on a system to send funds to the affected families and we encourage the sangat to wait for more details on that.
2. Where do funds donated to WSO go to?
Funds donated to WSO go towards our advocacy work including things like our social media campaigns, creating media and promotional material to drive awareness, working with mainstream media, lobbying Government officials and many other related expenses. Please donate http://www.worldsikh.org/donate
3. What do funds donated to MSBF go to?
Funds donated to Manmeet Singh Bhullar Foundation go towards the sponsorship of Afghan Sikh and Hindu families currently in India awaiting sponsorship to Canada. The Government of Canada requires funds to be deposited in trust accounts when filing sponsorship papers. See https://www.themsbf.ca/what-we-do/save-afghan-minorities
4. What is the process of sponsoring a family?
Each family that has arrived in Canada was sponsored through the Government of Canada’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program. Sponsors are required to pledge approximately $7,600 per person and deposit funds in trust. Sponsors are responsible for supporting and settling refugee families for at least one year after arrival.
5. Can I adopt an orphan?
There is no mechanism or procedure to adopt Sikh orphans from Afghanistan.
6. How does direct sponsorship work? Why is it the best option at this time?
A direct sponsorship program is similar to an evacuation - displaced or vulnerable persons can be brought directly from their country of origin to Canada without having to first go to a third-country. Such programs have been instituted by Canada in special cases in the past, including in Syria. Forcing Afghan Sikhs and Hindus to first go to a third country to be sponsored would be a major hardship and delay their resettlement by at least five years.
7. Why is emailing MPs so important?
The most powerful method we have as citizens is writing, emailing, or calling our Member of Parliament. MPs need to know that this issue matters to Canadian Sikhs. Most don’t even know that Sikhs in Afghanistan are facing such imminent danger. It’s up to us to let them know and to ask for a direct sponsorship program.
8. What is currently the situation of Afghan families who are being processed?
While about 60 individuals who were first contacted in 2014 had arrived in Canada, 150 more still await the processing of their files. The process has taken much longer than anticipated.
9. How many Sikhs/Hindus are left in Afghanistan?
Approximately 800 Sikhs remain in Afghanistan. We are working on compiling lists to get exact numbers
10. How many Afghan Sikhs are in India still waiting to come to Canada?
Of the group Manmeet Bhullar helped evacuate, approximately 150 are waiting. The numbers of Afghan Sikh refugees in India who lack status and need help is much larger- in the thousands.
11. I don’t live in Canada and I want to help sponsor families to Canada. Can I help?
If you are not a citizen of Canada, you cannot sponsor a family. However, you can help financially. More details will be available should we have to go that route.