London

Some 23 Afghan refugees arriving in London, Ont.

The Canadian government has said it plans to resettle about 20,000 vulnerable Afghans, including women and children, as well as Afghan nationals who are now outside the country.

The London Cross Cultural Learner Centre says the refugees are expected to arrive Friday

Refugees from Afghanistan and Canadian Citizens board a bus after being processed at Pearson Airport in Toronto, Tuesday, Aug 17, 2021, after arriving indirectly from Afghanistan. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Some 23 refugees from Afghanistan are set to arrive in London by the end of the week. 

The London Cross Cultural Learner Centre (CCLC) told CBC News that as of Thursday, 23 refugees are expected, but that number could change.

The CCLC is one of the local agencies assisting with resettling the refugees, which include families and individuals, in the city. They're part of a national and provincial network of resettlement assistance providers and act as a hub that will connect refugees with the supports and services they need.

"Our colleagues at the airport are working very hard now," said Valeriano Marochko, the CCLC's executive director.

"[The newcomers] first ... do some initial orientation, a medical exam, they get their first vaccine and all the paperwork ... and all the screening that is needed," he said. "We are just one local piece of the big puzzle."

Thousands of Afghans have been fleeing the country in fear of persecution under the Taliban, which swept to power in recent weeks. 

"[What these refugees are going through], it's heartbreaking. They're leaving their home, their loved ones, their friends, their family — a life behind. It's traumatizing," Marochko said 

He added the CCLC will be working with partners in order to refer anyone who needs it to adequate mental health services, in addition to services for basic necessities as well as those for further community integration. 

The Canadian government had said it planned to resettle about 20,000 vulnerable Afghans, including women and children, as well as Afghan nationals who are now outside the country, but on Thursday officials said its effort to airlift those fleeing Taliban rule out of Afghanistan had come to an end. It's estimated Canada has helped to evacuate 3,700 people. 

Marochko said they won't know if Thursday's announcement will have an impact on any of the 23 newcomers until after they arrive to the city.

In addition to partners who will help the newcomers with basic needs, the CCLC is also in communication with Afghan community leaders who are ready to offer their help. 

He said Londoners wanting to help can do so by donating to the refugee health and housing funds set up by the CCLC. Marochko said the centre is always looking for volunteers as well.

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