A plane carrying more than 200 Afghan refugees landed at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) last night.
The group is the largest to arrive in B.C. since the Taliban took over Afghanistan last August.
Most of the people aboard the charter flight, which departed from Islamabad, Pakistan, had work in Afghanistan that “involved a significant or enduring relationship with the Government of Canada, as well as their families,” said Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Sean Fraser, in a statement.
Fraser said 161 of the new arrivals will stay in Vancouver while the other 48 will settle elsewhere in the country, where they have family ties.
They were greeted at YVR by the Community Airport Newcomers Network – a resettlement assistance program provided by Success, a Richmond-based immigrant settlement organization, that provides an initial orientation, winter clothing and arranges transport for newcomers and their families.
Over the next few weeks, the group will also receive support from the Immigrant Services Society of B.C. (ISSofBC), which will help them find housing and provide information about finding a job.
Around 85 per cent of the government-assisted Afghan refugees who have arrived in B.C. since August 2021 have moved into permanent housing, according to the federal government.
Chris Friesen, chief operating officer of ISSofBC, told the Richmond News last month that while many Afghan refugees have had their first landing spot in Richmond – up to 100 at a time staying at a local hotel – none of them have found a permanent home in the city.
There is “absolutely” a need for more affordable housing in Richmond, including for refugees, he added.
Instead, most settle in Surrey while others have found homes in Burnaby, Vancouver and Coquitlam.
Friesen said at the time that the “ironic saving grace” of the COVID-19 pandemic is that there’s been more rental housing available due to less immigration and fewer international students competing for homes.
But refugees are expected to keep flowing into Canada over the next few years and Friesen said at the time that he doesn’t see any relief in sight as far as housing is concerned.
Last November, the B.C. government announced the $2 million Refugee Readiness Fund to help boost local services and supports for families resettling in B.C. due to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
With Tuesday’s arrivals, the federal government said more than 7,000 Afghan refugees have landed in Canada.
Ottawa has promised to resettle 40,000 Afghan refugees across the country.
-With files from Maria Rantanen