British Columbia

Dozens of Sikh and Hindu families persecuted in Afghanistan approved to settle in Canada

The World Sikh Organization is spearheading efforts to bring 65 refugee families from Afghanistan — where Sikhs and Hindus are being persecuted — to Canada, and will settle about a dozen of the families in Surrey, B.C.

65 refugee families will move to Canada, with around a dozen bound for Surrey

Gian Singh Sandhu is the founding president of the World Sikh Organization of Canada, which is helping to privately sponsor refugees from Afghanistan. (CBC)

The World Sikh Organization is spearheading efforts to bring 65 refugee families from Afghanistan — where Sikhs and Hindus are being persecuted — to Canada, and will settle about a dozen of the families in Surrey, B.C.

The organization has been raising money to privately sponsor the families and recently found out their applications have been given initial approval from the government. 

Each family needs between $25,000 to $30,000 for their first year in Canada. The organization put the funds in a trust before the applications were accepted.

"In 2015, we got an urgent message — a panicking message — from someone in Afghanistan saying that the Sikh and the Hindu families there were being targeted by the Taliban," said Gian Singh Sandhu, founding president of the World Sikh Organization of Canada.

A suicide bombing that killed 19 people in July was a recent example of targeted violence against hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan, Sandhu said. (Parwiz/Afghanistan)

Sandhu pointed to a suicide bombing three months ago that targeted a group of Sikhs and Hindus on their way to meet Afghanistan's president as just one example of ongoing persecution in the country.

"At one time, we had a population of over 200,000 families there and currently there is less than 1,000 — they have all fled or many of them have been killed," Sandhu told Laura Lynch, guest host of CBC's The Early Edition.

No immigration status in India

Some of the families that left ended up in India, where international aid groups like the World Sikh Organization and the Manmeet Singh Bhullar Foundation became involved.  

But their plight wasn't over even after leaving Afghanistan, Sandhu said, because the families weren't given any immigration status in India and struggled with language and schooling.

"The only schooling that they had, if they wanted to go to, was actually to go to the Muslim schools," Sandhu said.

The first seven families are expected to arrive in the Lower Mainland in January.

The World Sikh Organization is spearheading efforts to bring 65 refugee families from Afghanistan, where Sikh and Hindus are being persecuted, to Canada and will settle about a dozen of the families in Surrey, B.C. 4:39

With files from The Early Edition