Afghan human rights defenders arrive in Canada

News release

January 11, 2022—Ottawa—For 2 decades, Canadians have worked side by side with Afghan nationals to improve security, democracy and human rights in Afghanistan. Now Canada is welcoming people who face risks as a result of this vitally important work.

The Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, today announced the arrival in Canada of over 250 Afghan refugees, including 170 human rights defenders, as government-assisted refugees. Canada has a long and proud tradition of standing up for human rights at home and abroad. In July 2021, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) launched a human rights defenders immigration stream, making Canada one of the few countries in the world with a dedicated, permanent immigration program for those who protect and promote human rights.

The work of human rights defenders is essential to promote and protect the human rights of people around the world, and too often, they put their own lives at risk. Many of those arriving today have worked for decades documenting human rights abuses in Afghanistan and intend to continue their work in Canada with the assistance of Canadian and international non-governmental organizations.

This latest group of arrivals is part of Canada’s humanitarian commitment to welcome vulnerable Afghan refugees—including women leaders, human rights defenders, persecuted religious or ethnic minorities, LGBTI individuals, and journalists and people who helped Canadian journalists. The humanitarian program complements Canada’s special immigration program for Afghans who worked for Canada during and after our military mission. So far, Canada has welcomed approximately 6,750 Afghan nationals as part of the government’s commitment to resettle Afghan nationals.

In the coming days, these newest refugees will be welcomed into their host communities and will quarantine with the support of local service provider organizations as they begin their new lives in Canada.

The Government of Canada is working with Front Line Defenders and ProtectDefenders, alongside other Canadian and international partners, including the United Nations Refugee Agency, to identify human rights defenders who face security risks and are in need of resettlement, and to find solutions for human rights defenders in need of protection.

IRCC’s Refugee Resettlement Program plays a key role in resettling vulnerable individuals across the country and ensures they have what they need to live and thrive in their new communities. This includes helping them find permanent housing and providing them with information about finding a job, improving their language skills, and living in Canada generally.


“It is a privilege to welcome today this cohort of Afghan refugees, who face persecution as a result of their work to protect the human rights of others. Canada is one of the few countries globally with a dedicated program that provides refuge for vulnerable human rights defenders, and I am grateful for their work to document and prevent human rights abuses and proud that they now call our country home.”

– The Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Quick facts

  • The latest data on newly arrived Afghan refugees is available on our Key figures webpage.

  • Human rights defenders are people who, individually or in association with others, non-violently promote or strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national or international level.

  • Human rights defenders face persecution at the hands of both state and non-state actors, including arbitrary arrest, detention, threats, torture, enforced disappearance and assassination.

  • In 2019, Canada launched new guidelines on supporting human rights defenders called “Voices at Risk.”

Associated links


Contacts for media only

Vincent Hughes
Minister’s Office
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada

Media Relations
Communications Branch
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada

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