1st Anniversary - Arrival of Afghan Refugees in Canada


August 19, 2022 (Calgary, AB) -The Afghan Refugee Resettlement Program led by Calgary Catholic Immigration Society (CCIS) engaged 41 resettlement agencies across the country in the Afghan resettlement operations. We want to commemorate the 1st anniversary of the arrival of Afghan refugees in Canada. This anniversary marks a year of broadening perspectives and campaigning for new beginnings. The mission to welcome Afghans into Canada would not have been possible without the support of our partners, the Canadian government, and the Canadian people.

Today we remember this day as a commemoration rather than a celebration. For Canadians across the country, the anniversary date is the recognition of new friends being embraced, who have now become our neighbours, coworkers, and vital community members. For Afghans, we acknowledge that this date represents bittersweet sentiments. Through fleeing war and escaping persecution, Afghans have demonstrated to the world their bravery and resilience. On this anniversary date, Canadians remain steadfast in their support for Afghans and their fight for freedom.

In August 2021, the Government of Canada announced a commitment to bringing 20,000 displaced and vulnerable Afghan refugees. Weeks later, that commitment doubled to welcome 40,000 Afghan refugees through various special programs. Canada's obligation was among the largest in the world. In addition to their significant pledge, Canada was one of the first countries to launch a humanitarian resettlement program. Since then, the country has welcomed more than 17,300 Afghan Refugees and will persist in maintaining its goal of resettling 40,000 Afghan refugees.

CCIS has spearheaded this initiative. To help the resettlement process of Afghans entering the country, the National Afghan Refugee Resettlement Program team was created and works collaboratively with agencies and organizations across the country. Despite a global pandemic, the group continues to work collaboratively with the agencies to respond to the urgent needs of Afghan nationals and their families. CCIS has developed a national, regional, and local administration framework for the Special Programs. The forming and execution of this structure have been strengthened through following best practices, strategic coordination, and working closely with our partners and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

Following the fall of Kabul last summer and the subsequent evacuation efforts, Canada stepped up and committed to resettling at least 40,000 Afghan refugees. As one of the world's largest Afghan resettlement initiatives, the help of our partners has been crucial, and Canada has already welcomed more than 17,300 vulnerable Afghans. From the bottom of my heart, I wish to thank CCIS, the Afghan Refugee Resettlement Program and all the incredible front-line staff from our resettlement agencies who've helped welcome Afghans across the country. Together, we will continue working hard to help some of the world's most vulnerable - The Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.

Millions of Afghan lives drastically changed for the worst after the collapse of the Afghan Government and subsequent take over by the Taliban in August 2021. As expected, millions of Afghans feared for their lives and tried to escape the country. With hundreds of thousands of lives in danger, Canada's commitment to resettle 40,000 Afghans as refugees In Canada gave hope of new life to those fleeing a life and death situation, - Fariborz Birjandian, CEO, Calgary Catholic Immigration Society.

The Government of Canada, 41 resettlement agencies across the country, and many other partners had only eight days to prepare and receive Afghan Refugees. The remarkable partnership, engaging 90 organizations, and achieving the task of resettling over 16,000 Afghans in over 30 communities across the country during COVID should make every Canadian proud.

Canadians across the country have supported Afghan newcomers through various inquiries and donations. The Contact Us email account has received and sent 35,500 emails. From coast to coast, donors have provided diverse financial and material support, including cash donations, accommodation offers, and legal assistance. Corporate donor partners have also played a role in helping the resettlement of Afghan refugees. There have been over 22 partners, including but not limited to Amazon, Air Canada, IKEA, Canadian Tire Jumpstart Foundation, Rogers Foundation, Loblaws, Primacorp, Ventures, Mainstreet Equity Corp, Walmart, McCain Foods, Commissionaires, Sobeys, Aurora Family Therapy Centre, TENT Partnership for Refugees, International Organization of Migration, and Refugee 613.

We have worked collaboratively with Uber and Airbnb, whose generous donations have supported transportation and temporary accommodations. Uber has courteously donated $100,000. This donation has contributed to $67,177 spent on Uber rides, accounting for 3400 Uber rides taken over the year. Our partnership with Uber has helped clients obtain accessible transportation. This includes transport to medical appointments, where clients with complex medical needs can focus on their health and be at ease with the reliability of vehicles in a new city. Airbnb has gifted a grant of $500,000 to CCIS to facilitate temporary accommodations. This has enabled us to serve more than 433 Afghan families and accommodate 6,522 nights across 92 locations.

Our host was amiable and supported us during our stay at the Airbnb, and their place was very comfortable. They also offered to help us settle in; we are thankful for all the community does for us. - Afghan Refugee, Abbotsford

We would also like to highlight the exemplary and foundational work of the Resettlement Assistance Programs (RAP) agencies and individual organizations across the country who have aided in the resettlement process for the Afghan refugees. Without these agencies' experience, devotion, and persistence, this initiative would not have been possible. Front-line staff and volunteers work to ensure all the individuals and families who enter Canada are supported and safe. Across the 41 resettlement agencies across Canada, thousands of volunteers have assisted their time and resources. Alongside their tangible contributions, their moral support has made a tremendous impact.

Various programs and organizations across Canada have provided Afghan families opportunities to build connections and develop new skills. Programs such as the Saskatchewan Settlement Workers in Schools (SWIS) have helped Afghan children improve their English language skills and learn about Canadian culture and geography. One volunteer described their experience as noted:

According to the Settlement Workers in Schools (SWIS)Program "working with Afghan refugees has been a job that has been very fulfilling and rewarding as a SWIS worker. Schools have put in extra effort to make sure the students have what they need to learn, play, and participate, just like their classmates. It has been challenging and time-consuming as SWIS works through many barriers, such as language, cultural differences, mental health struggles, transportation, finances, programming, winter clothing, electronics for learning, and so on. Overall, the families and schools have been extremely appreciative of my work as their SWIS worker, and I could not do it without the support of our interpreters" - SWIS Staff, Stephanie April, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

During the peaks of COVID-19, the work of these organizations did not diminish but strengthened in their efforts to aid Afghan newcomers. Local organizations were tasked with developing and assisting with temporary accommodations for quarantine, completing immigration paperwork, undergoing health checks, and receiving COVID-19 vaccinations. RAP agencies have also led communities receiving Afghan refugees through various RAP services. These services include support through the search for permanent housing and connecting them with applicable settlement programs and services. RAP organizations have become a bridge between Afghan refugees and volunteer host families, where emotional support is provided and guidance to everyday life in Canada.

Within one year, this initiative has made great strides in resettlement, and the journey to resettle Afghan refugees prevails. There is still much to learn about what Canada can do to help our newcomers, including Afghan refugees, better, but we are determined to listen and learn together. On this anniversary date, we commemorate all the individuals who have and continue to work diligently in undertaking this initiative and the courage of Afghan refugees in Canada and across the globe.

Please visit here to learn more about the National Afghan Refugee Resettlement Programs across Canada, donate, or get involved.

About Calgary Catholic Immigration Society (CCIS)

Calgary Catholic Immigration Society (CCIS) is a non-profit organization which provides settlement and integration services to all immigrants and refugees in Southern Alberta.

Since our inception in 1981, we have been a community leader with solid experience designing and delivering comprehensive services for our newest neighbours. We provide these services through a dynamic, multi-cultural, multi-denominational and multi-disciplinary team of professionals who speak over 60 languages. 

About the Afghan Refugee Resettlement Program

These Special Programs exist to rapidly respond to the urgent need for refuge for Afghan nationals. The programs will resettle approximately 40,000 Afghans to communities across Canada.

The Afghan Resettlement Program aims to ensure the safe, efficient, and respectful resettlement, settlement, and integration of arriving Afghan refugees through a practical collaborative approach to service delivery. 

Media and Regional Contacts

Belul Tesfu

National Marketing and Communications Specialist – National Afghan Refugee Resettlement Program

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Prairies Northwest Territories

Fariborz Birjandian

Co-Chair Afghan National Steering Committee and CEO – Calgary Catholic Immigration Society (CCIS)

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Megan Morris

Executive Director- Association for New Canadians

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Valerian Marochko

Executive Director- Cross-Cultural Learner Centre (CCLC)

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Samina Sami

CEO-COSTI Immigrant Services

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British Columbia

Rebecca Irani


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