Trudeau Liberals expand 'Gaza refugee' program — have yet to get anyone out of Gaza

The Trudeau Liberals are officially expanding their 1,000-person cap for displaced Palestinians but have yet to get anyone out of the Gaza Strip. 'How many people have been preapproved so far?' asked a reporter. 'I can’t speak to it publicly,' replied Immigration Minister Marc Miller. 'I am pretty pissed off about it.'

Trudeau Liberals expand 'Gaza refugee' program — have yet to get anyone out of Gaza
AP Photo/Bilal Hussein and THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
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The Trudeau Liberals are officially expanding their 1,000-person cap for displaced Palestinians but have yet to get anyone out of the Gaza Strip.

“How many people have been preapproved so far?” asked a reporter. “I can’t speak to it publicly,” replied Immigration Minister Marc Miller. 

“It is not insignificant, but it isn’t in the hundreds,” he added.

On December 21 last year, Miller said he would waive immigration rules to grant permits to a limited number of Gazans to enter Canada. He placed the onus on Israeli authorities to conduct security checks and permit who can and can’t leave the region.

“We will require documentation in order to get to Canada,” Miller told reporters late last year. “There will be a process just to get people out of Gaza which will be, knowing from experience, very intensive from a security perspective as well as the biometrics that will need to be performed in Cairo.”

“Local authorities need to help us get people through the Rafah border crossing,” he added. “Canada doesn’t control that, and I am pretty pissed off about it.”

The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) told CTV News last month that it knew of requests for "around 800 to 900 Gazans" to join families here.

Visa applications opened on January 9 at a cost of $100 per applicant or $500 per family, with Canadian families financially liable for successful applicants.

Advocates noted that no cap existed at the height of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war for displaced Ukrainians. More than 210,000 Ukrainian refugees have come to Canada since 2022.

Grace Batchoun, the Palestinian-Canadian co-founder of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, called the visa program a "first step," but condemned the "double standard" where Ukrainian refugees received different treatment. 

"We all see the double standards, we all see the hypocrisy, and it hurts us," she said. "Why are we dealing with the Palestinians differently from how we dealt with the Ukrainians?" Batchoun told CTV no competition should exist for visas granted for humanitarian reasons. 

Miller acknowledged none had been permitted out of Gaza to date, according to Blacklock’s Reporter

“I would like to stress it is extremely difficult to leave Gaza and may not be possible,” he added. “There is an extensive vetting system that is done on the ground.” 

“Before I speak more publicly on it, I think we still have some diplomatic work to do.”

“What do those efforts look like?” asked a reporter. “Diplomatic efforts,” replied Miller. “Our team is on the ground working with people, communicating with the families, letting them know if and when the window is open.”

“We can’t give up,” he added. “I don’t want to create a system that entertains false hope, but I also don’t want to drop my arms and not try. It’s really frustrating and obviously it’s a matter of life and death for the families in question.”

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