TORONTO, July 16 (Reuters) - Canada is establishing a dedicated refugee stream for “human rights defenders,” including journalists, who may need to seek asylum to escape persecution in their country, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino said on Friday.
The stream - the first of its kind in the world, according to the UN refugee agency - will accommodate 250 people a year, plus their families, and focus on people at heightened risk, such as women, journalists and LGBTQ2 rights advocates.
“We must not overlook those who bear witness to these human tragedies, who are active through demonstration and reporting so the rest of us can be informed. But in doing so they risk persecution, arrest, torture and even death,” he told reporters in a virtual news conference from Toronto.
One example a spokesperson gave of a person eligible under this program is an activist against the regime in Belarus who had fled to Poland but needed permanent refuge.
Canada aims to resettle 36,000 refugees this year, almost four times its total of 9,200 resettled in 2020. But by the end of April, only 1,630 resettled refugees had arrived in Canada, according to government figures.
“The pandemic has continued to challenge us to have those corridors open,” Mendicino said.
Last month Canada said it would nearly double its intake of “protected persons” this year, with a new target of 45,000 up from 23,500. “Protected persons” are defined as people who have applied for and been granted refugee status after arriving in the country, as well as their immediate families abroad. (Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by Andrea Ricci)
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