Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen speaks at the Black History Month reception in Ottawa on Feb. 4, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang)

Hundreds of ex-slaves in Libya coming to Canada, immigration minister says

More than 150 people have been resettled and another 600 more are expected

Canada has begun resettling hundreds of people rescued from slavery in Libya, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen says.

Canada was one of the few countries to respond to a request from the United Nations refugee agency in 2017, Hussen told The Canadian Press in an email Wednesday.

More than 150 people have been resettled and another 600 more are expected over the next two years through the regular refugee settlement program, he said.

Canada is also planning to take in 100 refugees from Niger who were rescued from Libyan migrant detention centres, including victims of human smuggling, he added.

ALSO READ: Federal officials dealing with backlog of refugee security screens

Libya is a major stopping point for asylum-seekers from Africa who intend to cross the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe. A video of what appeared to be smugglers selling imprisoned migrants near Tripoli became public in 2017, prompting world leaders to start talking about freeing migrants detained in Libyan camps.

Hussen revealed the resettlement plan on Monday night at an event in Ottawa to celebrate Black History Month.

He said Canada was asked by the UN to “rescue” people who have “endured unimaginable trauma.” He said Canada has responded to the call and provided safe haven.

The minister said Canada would eventually welcome “a lot” of Libyans.

The Mediterranean Sea crossing from north Africa to Europe’s southern has been a perilous one for migrants fleeing violence and instability.

Last month, the United Nations Migration Agency reported that 5,757 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea through the first 27 days of 2019, an increase over the 5,502 who arrived during the same period last year. The death toll dropped slightly, to 207 this year compared with 242 deaths in the same period of 2018.

The influx of migrants into Europe has sparked a backlash. Italy’s populist government does not allow ships to bring migrants to its shores, as part of an effort to force other European Union countries to share the burden of dealing with arrivals.

Last week, a coalition of international aid organizations from several European countries condemned the politicking in Europe around migrants.

“Since January 2018, at least 2,500 women, children and men have drowned in the Mediterranean. Meanwhile, EU leaders have allowed themselves to become complicit in the tragedy unfolding before their eyes,” their open letter said.

“Every time a ship brings people who have just been rescued to a European port, EU governments engage in painful, drawn-out debates about where the ship can disembark and which countries can host the survivors and process their asylum applications.”

The Canadian initiative with the Libyans follows recent resettlements of about 1,000 Yazidi refugees from Iraq and 40,000 Syrians, threatened by Islamic State militants and Syrian forces.

“Canadians have always been welcoming to newcomers, and that generosity has helped offer protection to those fleeing persecution, terror and war,” Hussen said.

Mike Blanchfield and Stephen Cook, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Peninsula firefighters spend the summer in intensive training

No rest for personnel as they improve high tower, role-plays and marina fire fighting skills

VIDEO: RCMP officer killed in the line of duty remembered ‘through the laughter of children’

Sarah Beckett Memorial Playground opens with ceremony in Langford

Fun zone the heart of Sooke’s 20th-anniversary celebration

Donations in remembrance of Hannah Day showed the community’s generosity

Art + Fare fundraiser boosts Gallery’s family programs

Sept. 21 event at the Union Club features art for sale, gourmet food and musical entertainment

Trudeau to meet with U.K. and Japanese prime ministers ahead of G7 summit

French President Emmanuel Macron, this year’s G7 host, has little expectations of a unified front from the leaders

B.C. RCMP plane chases fleeing helicopter as part of major cross-border drug bust

The helicopter eventually landed at a rural property near Chilliwack

Vancouver Island man dead after reported hit-and-run incident

Oceanside RCMP seek public’s help gathering information

Thousands cycle to conquer cancer

The 11th annual Ride to Conquer Cancer took place Saturday morning, Aug. 24 in Surrey, B.C.

PHOTOS: Brazil military begins operations to fight Amazon fires

Amazon fires have become a global issue, escalating tensions between Brazil and European countries

Racist confrontation in Richmond parking lot caught on camera

Woman can be heard yelling racial slurs, swear words at woman in apparent parking dispute

Groups ready campaign to help young voters identify ‘fake news’ in election

The media literacy campaign to focus on identifying misinformation and suspicious sources online

Big rally in northern B.C. draws attention to continuing lumber crisis

Mayor Joan Atkinson says about 400 workers have been directly affected by the closure of the Canfor mill

Orangeville Northmen take Minto Cup at Langley Events Centre

Swept best-of-five series 3-0 over Victoria Shamrocks

Most Read