WSO Welcomes Arrival of Afghan Sikh Refugees- Fears for Those Left Behind

Ottawa (March 17, 2022):  The World Sikh Organization of Canada welcomes the latest arrival of Afghan Sikh and Hindu refugee families to Canada, but continues to fear for those left behind in Afghanistan and India. 

Approximately 98 refugees are expected to arrive this month in Kelowna, Vancouver and Calgary. 

The arriving families had fled Afghanistan to India in 2015 and were 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. The WSO has assisted with arranging sponsors as well as in the settlement of the refugees in Canada.  

Manmeet Singh Bhullar who championed this cause prior to his tragic passing in November 2015, arranged for the evacuation of Sikhs and Hindus from Afghanistan’s Helmand province in early 2015 after they became the target of intolerance and attacks.

The arrival of these refugees follows a seven-year long process for the approval of their refugee applications by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

Sikhs and Hindu refugees who left Afghanistan after 2015, particularly those who fled after the suicide attack on Kabul’s Karte Parwan gurdwara in March 2020 and those that fled after the Taliban seizure of Kabul in 2021, continue to wait for Canada to create a pathway for their sponsorship. 

WSO President Tejinder Singh Sidhu said today,

“We welcome the arrival of the latest group of Afghan Sikh and Hindu families to Canada. It has been a long process of over seven years for them to arrive here. These arrivals are a tribute to the memory and vision of Manmeet Singh Bhullar who saw a community in desperate need and found a way to help them, despite the odds. 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 are, however, very fearful for the approximately 200 Sikhs and Hindus who remain in Afghanistan and the approximately 500 that fled to India after the March 2020 suicide attack on Kabul’s Karte Parwan gurdwara. There is still no pathway for them to come to Canada, despite repeated calls to the Government of Canada by our organization and Canadian Sikhs more broadly.

We have seen Canada create an expedited pathway for Ukrainian refugees to come to Canada over the past several weeks. This is a welcome step that must also be expanded to include other vulnerable refugee groups, including Afghan Sikhs and Hindus. 

We cannot wait another seven years for them to be cleared to come to Canada. Doing so would be unnecessary and deeply unfair to these vulnerable refugees who have already waited too long in horrific conditions.”   

Quick Facts: 

  • Afghanistan was historically home to a very large Sikh and Hindu population of approximately 200,000 that has continued to decline due to political instability, intolerance and attacks. 
  • On July 1, 2018, the entire leadership of the Sikh and Hindu communities was killed in a suicide bombing.   15 Sikhs and 4 Hindus who were on way to a meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani- lost their lives.  Daesh took responsibility for the attack. 
  • On March 25, 2020, in another Daesh suicide attack on Guru Har Sahib Gurdwara in Kabul, 25 Sikhs were killed, including 4 year old Tania Kaur. 
  • Since then, the community has been the target of bomb attacks, kidnappings and repeated storming of the remaining active gurdwara in Kabul.  Less than 200 Afghan Sikhs and Hindus remain in Afghanistan.
  • 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. 
  • Sikh and Hindu Afghan refugees in India have no legal status, receive no government assistance and often live in poverty.
  • Since 2015, the WSO has repeatedly called for the creation of an expedited pathway for approximately 1,000 Sikh and Hindu Afghan refugees to come to Canada.  The Government of Canada has still not agreed to these requests. 

 

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. 

 

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  • Balpreet Singh
    published this page in Press Releases 2022-03-17 18:27:57 -0400