Canada pledges temporary visas for 5,000 Gaza residents related to citizens

In preparatory move in case Palestinians are able to leave the Strip in the future, Canada’s interior ministry ups original allotment from 1,000 after wide interest in program

Illustrative: Palestinians wait at the Rafah border crossing in Egypt after being evacuated from the Gaza Strip, on December 26, 2023. (AFP)
Illustrative: Palestinians wait at the Rafah border crossing in Egypt after being evacuated from the Gaza Strip, on December 26, 2023. (AFP)

Canada announced on Monday that it will grant temporary visas to 5,000 Gaza residents under a special program for relatives of Canadian living in the war-torn Palestinian enclave, a preparatory move in case they are able to leave in the future.

That figure is an increase from the 1,000 temporary resident visas allotted under a special program for Gaza announced in December, the Canadian immigration ministry said in a statement, adding that many people had expressed interest.

“While movement out of Gaza is not currently possible, the situation may change at any time. With this cap increase, we will be ready to help more people as the situation evolves,” Canadian Immigration Minister Marc Miller said.

The minister had previously said that leaving Gaza is extremely difficult and dependent on approval from Israel.

Canada has been sharing the names of Gaza residents who have passed preliminary screening to local authorities to secure their exit, Miller said. Israel and Egypt are important to the program’s efforts toward reuniting families in Canada, he added.

There was no immediate comment from Israel or Egypt regarding Canada’s announcement.

Illustrative: Displaced Palestinians queue to buy water from a truck next to their temporary camp in Rafah on May 17, 2024 (AFP)

A spokesperson for Miller said 448 Gazans had been issued a temporary visa, including 254 under a public policy, and that 41 have arrived in Canada so far.

The temporary visas are valid for three years after entering the country, according to the Canadian government website.

The war in Gaza erupted after Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 252 hostages, mostly civilians, amid acts of brutality and sexual assault.

Vowing to destroy Hamas’s military and governance capabilities in Gaza and bring the hostages home, Israel launched a wide-scale operation in the Strip which is ongoing.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 35,000 people in the Strip have been killed or are presumed dead in the fighting so far, though only some 24,000 fatalities have been identified at hospitals. The tolls, which cannot be verified, include some 15,000 terror operatives Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

An estimated 1.7 million people, more than 75% of Gaza’s population, have been displaced, according to the UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA.

A total of 288 IDF soldiers have been killed during the ground offensive against Hamas and during operations along the Gaza border, as well as a acivilian Defense Ministry contractor.

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