The Canadian government have started processing the refugee applications for Afghanistan whose lives are being endangered by the increasing advances of the Taliban. According to immigration.ca:

Global Affairs Canada (GAC) and the Department of National Defence (DND) are already identifying and helping those eligible for resettlement to Canada. Operational teams from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), GAC and DND are on the ground in Afghanistan to support those efforts.

Canada’s immigration officials say they will immediately begin processing individuals referred to them by GAC and DND under a special immigration policy that will offer a path to protection in Canada for those at risk due to their work for Canada during the war.

“I know first-hand about the important work of those who helped the Canadian Armed Forces while Canada was in Afghanistan,” says Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.

“We owe it to those who served alongside our members in uniform to make sure that they and their families are safe. That is why the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence have been working with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada from the beginning.

CBC News mentions that Canada only accepts refugees if applications are made within Afghanistan itself.CBC News.

Why does the Canadian government only accept refugee applications from Afghans applying from Afghanistan, thus requiring them to return to the country?

A lot of people who fled the country must return to their country endangering their lives in the process. Why does the Canadian government require that the applications be made from Afghanistan?

  • For the same reasons other countries push back migrants/refugees/asylum seekers everywhere else, whether those reasons are openly stated or not in some official blah... To from a somewhat older article's title "there's a perception Canada is being invaded". Commented Aug 8, 2021 at 20:29
  • I wasn't the one who DV your question though. You should probably specify from whose perspective do you want this answered though, otherwise it could veer towards opinion-based. Also, it's not exactly clear from the quote you selected that they actually require this... Commented Aug 8, 2021 at 20:36
  • On the other hand, there have been press reports that the deadlines etc. for those applications are "completely unreasonable" ctvnews.ca/canada/… Commented Aug 8, 2021 at 20:43
  • @Fizz I think it's implied in the linked CBC News video. It has a story about someone going back to Afghanistan to apply for Canadian asylum.
    – JJJ
    Commented Aug 8, 2021 at 21:20
  • 2
    @JJJ: yeah, it's actually discussed in the video, but the quote included in the Q isn't terribly reflective of that. And I have to say the discussion in the video is also pretty unclear and probably biased in some ways. At the end Trudeau says/replies/admits that one programme indeed requires such and such presence, but that Afghan asylum seekers located in other countries could qualify under other programmers. Which is is of course all rather unclear... Commented Aug 8, 2021 at 21:23

3 Answers 3


To quote from your question [bold emphasis mine]:

The Canadian government have started processing the refugee applications for Afghanistan whose lives are being endangered by the increasing advances of the Taliban.

If they are not in Afghanistan, their lives are not being endangered by being in Afghanistan, ergo, they don't require any protection.

A lot of people who fled the country must return to their country endangering their lives in the process.

But they are already out of the country. They don't need to be safely extracted from Afghanistan because they are not there.


There is an internationally recognized right for refugees to leave the country where they are in danger and to apply for asylum in the first safe country they reach. This country must evaluate their claims and grant them refugee status if the application is justified. They may not simply be sent back without a hearing (non-refoulement).

There is no internationally recognized right for refugees to enter any other country they like and to make their asylum application there. They would no longer be fleeing from danger in that first safe country, they would be simply looking for an even better place to live.

This interpretation of human rights obligations is of course rather convenient for countries like Canada. Canada has a land border with the United States and sea borders with France and Denmark, so they don't have to take any refugees except from those three countries. Something similar is going on between Belarus and Lithuania right now.

Canada would have to give a hearing to anybody who arrives from the US, and claims to be persecuted within the US. These cases happen every now and then, but in very low numbers.

  • Of course, to the extent that Canada determines that the US is engaged in some act of persecution, that determination is itself subject to diplomatic consequences (i.e. the US might not like it if Canada goes around loudly proclaiming that the US is persecuting people). The same applies to Canada's other neighbors. So the "very low numbers" should be unsurprising.
    – Kevin
    Commented Aug 9, 2021 at 19:28
  • Thing is, this whole sorry episode isn't about normal refugees, it is specifically about people who worked for the Canadian armed forces and/or the embassy. So how applicable regular refugee rules are here is dubious. Additionally, wrt regular refugee processing, Canada did process Syrian refugees already out of Syria. Plus, a good chunk of Europe has specifically displayed this kind of behavior with refugees in the last few years, preferring to let Greece and Med. states shoulder most refugee burden so singling out Canada is iffy. Commented Aug 9, 2021 at 19:29
  • 1
    That's not exactly the way international law works. Most importantly, the calculation is much more pragmatic. It's precisely because national and international law and basic reality actually do make it difficult to send back refugees that countries do not want to encourage applications from their territory. If refoulement was unproblematic, there would be no reason to prevent people from applying.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Aug 9, 2021 at 19:36
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica, hence my Lithuania example. Or think of the Belarus runner who immediately got a visa from Poland ... double standards all the way.
    – o.m.
    Commented Aug 10, 2021 at 3:49

First, the links you give don't really clarify all that much that you can't apply as a refugee to Canada from elsewhere. What they mostly say is that they have people in Afghanistan ready to process those applications.

Canada, like the US, has seen some considerable alarm at the way repatriations of a particular class of refugees are being handled. That of translators or other people who would have collaborated with NATO forces during the NATO mission there.

There have been criticisms at how Canada handles things. For example, a botched 3 day deadline, in a country with unreliable internet. I have seen too, though I am not sure if it was a US or Canada thing, that asking people to travel in Afghanistan with lots of paperwork proving they were NATO assistants really puts them in danger if they get caught by the Taliban with those papers.

None of the criticism has been based on your premise, that we force them to apply in Afghanistan. That's because the whole point of this operation is take this specific group of people out of Afghanistan before the Taliban overrun the whole country. So it makes total sense to prioritize from-country applications at least at this point in time. If and when the Talibans control the country, then, yes it will make sense to revisit the policy.

Last, Canada accepted 25000 Syrian refugees in 2015-16. A not inconsiderable number though we could probably have accepted more. These people were not forced to apply from Syria, so your claim that Afghans will be forced to apply from Afghanistan in the future isn't convincing.

To help manage the work, we set up temporary visa processing centres in:

Amman, Jordan Beirut, Lebanon Ankara, Turkey

  • (+1) In fact, letting people apply from Afghanistan or participating in resettlement programmes is what sets Canada apart in this story. All halfway decent countries have to hear claims from people who made it to their territory, there aren't many other solutions but very few go beyond that, or do it in very small numbers.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Aug 9, 2021 at 19:41
  • 25000 is certainly a significant number. Canada is second only to the US and ahead of the UK or France (which both have larger populations) and consistenly account for 10-20% of UNHCR-brokered resettlements.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Aug 9, 2021 at 19:47
  • I don't think you watched the video.
    – Sayaman
    Commented Aug 10, 2021 at 16:36
  • @Sayaman I didn't. I don't typically quote video by itself, though I might quote relevant parts. I do know you linked to a particular time though. Commented Aug 10, 2021 at 18:46

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