Canada’s effort to airlift those fleeing Taliban rule out of Afghanistan has come to an end, says the acting chief of the defence staff.
A notice sent out this morning from the Immigration Department says that evacuation operations are done and “at this time, no further evacuation flights are being planned.”
“The government of Canada recognizes that there are a number of people in Afghanistan including Canadian citizens, permanent residents, their families, and applicants under programs for Afghans,” it reads.
“Until such a time that the security situation stabilizes, be mindful of the security environment and where possible, take the necessary steps to ensure your security and that of your family.”
The department advises those with an application in progress to contact them by email.
Gen. Wayne Eyre said most of the Canadian personnel still in the country left Hamid Karzai International Airport eight hours ago, although a small contingent has stayed behind to support allies.
Earlier Wednesday during a media briefing, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said the situation is changing by the hour.
“As the Americans draw down to meet their (Aug. 31) deadline, partner nations, including Canada, must draw down our troops, assets and aircraft ahead of the Americans,” he said. “These moves are necessary for the U.S. to safely maintain control of the airport until they depart.”
Tens of thousands of Afghans fearing persecution under the Taliban, which swept to power in recent days, have rushed to Kabul’s airport hoping to escape the country.
Advocacy groups, families and those on the ground have reported problems reaching officials and have criticized the government for not acting sooner.
Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said that as of Aug. 24, Canada had airlifted more than 2,700 people out of Kabul, including Afghan refugees, Canadian citizens, permanent residents and other foreign nationals.
Canada has struck an air-bridge agreement with other countries that allows people bound for Canada to catch rides out of Kabul on allied aircraft while Canada steps up in the same fashion.
Mendicino said on Thursday that close to 1,000 Afghans have arrived in Canada and over 300 have now finished quarantine.
Canada has so far evacuated more people out of Afghanistan than 10 other countries, including Spain, Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands, according to the immigration minister’s office’s tracking numbers, which are based on media stories.
The White House said Thursday that since Aug. 14, it has evacuated and helped in the evacuation of about 95,700 people. Britain said on Wednesday it has evacuated more than 11,000 people from Afghanistan.
WATCH | Retired journalist Kevin Newman says Afghans have virtually no way to get into Kabul airport:
‘There is virtually no way to get into the [Kabul] airport’: Retired journalist on Afghan evacuationsRetired journalist Kevin Newman, who is actively involved in the humanitarian effort to get eligible Afghans out of Afghanistan, told Power & Politics Wednesday that he doesn’t have much hope that Canada will be able to move a significant number of Afghans out of the country in the next 24-28 hours. 7:15