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

World Community Film Festival returns to Kelowna

The festival celebrates its 16th anniversary

Line-up for Kelowna Fan Experience 2019 to be announced

The line-up will be announced Feb. 22

2019’s “status quo” budget accepted cautiously by Kelowna Chamber

“(This budget) is to appeal to an NDP base.”

Teresa May talent agency opens in Kelowna

The agency will be holding an all ages open casting event Feb. 24

Niedermayer jersey retirement ceremony a dream come true

Penticton minor hockey players bring home memories of a lifetime from Niedermayer jersey retirement

Students give two thumbs up to no more B.C. student loan interest

Eliminating the loan interest charges could save the average graduate $2,300 over 10 years

Ontario man accused of killing 11-year-old daughter dies in hospital, police say

Roopesh Rajkumar had been hospitalized with what police described as a self-inflicted gunshot wound

Larch Hills junior skiers top Teck BC Midget Championships

Multiple top-five finishes contribute to aggregate team trophy

Manitoba ‘pauses’ link with ex-B.C. premier Gordon Campbell after allegations

Campbell had been hired to review two major hydro projects

Heritage minute features Japanese-Canadian baseball team, internment

The Vancouver Asahi baseball team won various championships across the Pacific Northwest

UPDATE: Woman, off-duty cop in critical condition after stabbing outside B.C. elementary school

The officer was interceding in an alleged assault when he and the woman were stabbed

Vehicle fire on Coquihalla near Kamloops

A large plume of smoke could be seen rising into the sky over Highway 5

Pool plans disappoint Shuswap swim clubs

Salmon Arm mayor assures options for city rec centre only preliminary

$10-a-day child care not in 2019 budget, but advocate not irked

Sharon Gregson with the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C. says NDP on track to deliver promise

Most Read