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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Escaped python found in Saanich building reunited with its owner

The little snake is at ‘home, safe and sound,’ CRD chief bylaw officer says

COVID-19: Victoria hopes to provide financial relief through property taxes, utility bills

A number of city projects could be deferred in light of pandemic

Highway 1 tree removal impacts traffic Tuesday evening

Work starts April 7 at 6 p.m. between Finlayson Arm Road and Westshore Parkway

Victoria police seek public’s help finding man missing more than a week

Joel Diment 26 and has short brown hair and hazel eyes

Greater Victoria donates 166 tents, 240 sleeping bags and more for those in need

Items placed in 72-hour quarantine before being distributed to help homeless self-isolate

Mental Health: Planning for a crisis

Crisis planning lays out a blueprint in case hard times hit

COVID-19: Don’t get away for Easter weekend, Dr. Bonnie Henry warns

John Horgan, Adrian Dix call 130 faith leaders as holidays approach

COVID-19: Trudeau says 30K ventilators on the way; 3.6M Canadians claim benefits

Canada has seen more than 17,000 cases and at least 345 deaths due to COVID-19

Comox spring training cancelled for Snowbirds next month

The team announced that due to ongoing travel restrictions they will not be training in the Valley

Some Cowichan schools to reopen for children of essential-services workers

Cowichan Valley will open 8 elementary schools this week

RCMP call on kids to name latest foal recruits

The baby horses names are to start with the letter ‘S’

Physiotherapists turn to technology to reach patients during COVID-19

Just because services, jobs, and socializing have been put on hold, it… Continue reading

As Canadians return home amid pandemic, border crossings dip to just 5% of usual traffic

Non-commercial land crossing dipped by 95%, air travel dropped by 96 per cent, according to the CBSA

Logan Boulet Effect: Green Shirt Day calls on Canadians to become organ donors

While social distancing, the day also honours the 16 lives lost in the 2018 Humboldt Broncos Crash

Most Read