Calgary (March 12, 2019): The World Sikh Organization of Canada is delighted to welcome the arrival of the first Sikh and Hindu refugee families from Afghanistan to Canada. The first two refugee families arrived this afternoon in Calgary. Today’s arrivals are the result of the tireless work of Manmeet Singh Bhullar who championed this cause prior to his tragic passing in November 2015.
The arriving refugees have been sponsored through private applications that were spearheaded by the Manmeet Singh Bhullar Foundation with support from the World Sikh Organization of Canada, community groups and individuals carrying on the tireless work of Manmeet Singh Bhullar. By utilizing the private sponsorship stream, individuals donate the costs of refugee sponsorship, maintaining legal responsibility to ensure settlement supports are provided to refugees.
Sikhs and Hindus have endured increasing religious persecution and today face a difficult, if not unliveable situation in many parts of Afghanistan. The Sikh and Hindu communities that have lived in Afghanistan for hundreds of years, now number less than 1,000 individuals. Prior to 1992, their population numbered over 200,000, however due to persecution and discrimination, most have been forced to flee to other countries. The Afghan Sikh and Hindus remaining in Afghanistan are the most vulnerable who do not have the resources or ability to relocate.
In December 2014, Sikh and Hindu families from Afghanistan’s Helmand region reached out to the WSO for help. In turn the WSO asked Manmeet Singh Bhullar for his assistance. Manmeet began what seemed like the impossible task of helping these families on the other side of the world, in what was and continues to be an extremely dangerous region. He single-handedly oversaw the safe exit of each Sikh and Hindu family from Helmand to India and helped find local organizations to assist with their basic needs. As refugees in India have no legal status, receive no government assistance and often live in poverty, Manmeet strongly advocated for steps to help bring these families to Canada.
After Manmeet’s tragic passing in November 2015, the Manmeet Singh Bhullar Foundation carried forward his work and with the assistance of gurdwaras, elected officials, the Sikh community and the WSO, have finally seen the arrival of the first families to Canada.
WSO President Mukhbir Singh said today, “the arrival of the first Afghan Sikh and Hindu families to Canada is a proud moment for our community and a tribute to the vision and efforts of Manmeet Singh Bhullar. Manmeet saw a community in desperate need and despite the odds, found a way to help them. The WSO is proud to have been a part of the team that has been working on this project with Manmeet and his family since 2015. We thank the Government of Canada for their assistance in this process and look forward to the expeditious processing of the Afghan Sikh and Hindu refugee applications still in queue. While the arrival of these first families is an important milestone that we are celebrating, we also know that there are approximately 1000 Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan today in very desperate straits and who are facing severe religious persecution and continue to plead for assistance. We must ensure that urgent steps are taken to help them as well.”
The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) is a non-profit organization with a mandate to promote and protect the interests of Canadian Sikhs, as well as to promote and advocate for the protection of human rights of all individuals, irrespective of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, and social and economic status.