July 27, 2020
The Honourable Marco Mendicino, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship
The Honourable Francois-Phillipe Champagne, P.C., M.P.
OPEN LETTER: FOLLOW-UP ON IMMIGRATION MEASURES FOR SIKH AND HINDU COMMUNITIES IN AFGHANISTAN
Minister Mendicino and Minister Champagne,
I am writing to join my voice with the concerns raised by the World Sikh Organization (WSO) regarding religious minorities being persecuted in Afghanistan, specifically Sikhs and Hindus. Their lives are constantly at risk as they are being targeted for attack, abduction and extortion by extremist groups in the region, such as ISIS Khorasan (ISIS-K).
As noted by the WSO, on March 25, 2020, ISIS-K terrorists attacked Gurdwara Sri Guru Har Rai Sahib in Kabul and murdered 25 Sikhs, including four-year-old Tania Kaur. At the funeral for the victims of this attack, a second attack was initiated involving the detonation of an explosive device. Earlier, in July 2018, the senior leadership of the Sikh and Afghan communities was assassinated in a suicide bombing that took 19 lives in Jalalabad. In June 2020, an Afghan Sikh, Nidan Singh Sachdeva, was abducted from a gurdwara and tortured for weeks. That was followed on July 17 by the abduction of 13-year-old Salmeet Kaur who was kidnapped from a Kabul gurdwara where she was living with her blind mother and younger brother. Salmeet’s father was killed in the March attack. ISIS-K has sworn to exterminate all Afghan Sikhs and Hindus if they do not leave Afghanistan.
Afghanistan’s Sikh and Hindu communities face a threat to their very existence. The minority communities which once numbered over 200,000 have now dwindled to less than 800, due to decades of persecution. Only those families remain that do not have the means to relocate
elsewhere. The majority of the community is forced to reside in gurdwaras and face discrimination in accessing education, employment and housing. As ISIS-K continues to attack civilians and international troops continue to withdraw from Afghanistan, Sikhs and Hindus are likely to face more violence.
Given the worsening situation faced by Sikhs and Hindus, immediate action is required. I am reiterating my calls from my previous letter, dated April 2nd, 2020 (copy attached) for which I am still awaiting a reply. Once again, I urge your government to implement immediate special refugee resettlement measures for these vulnerable communities.
I would like to note that while I am very supportive ensuring the Canadian border is restricted to essential travel in recognition of the health concerns presented by COVID-19, I trust that you share the view that the precarious situations faced by people around the world, such as Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan, are not being put on hold during the pandemic. It is unacceptable for Canada to expect them to put their plight on hold while their lives are under constant risk. Refugees represent a small fraction of people who cross into Canada, even when compared to the reduced travel in today’s reality, and Canada is more than capable of ensuring they meet quarantine measures in a safe and secure manner. Respecting our human rights obligations should not be limited to when it is convenient and Canada must make every effort to meet its obligations, even in difficult times. It is critical that your government lift the travel restrictions for refugees so that they can get to safety.
I look forward to your swift response on this urgent matter.
MP, Vancouver East
NDP Critic for Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship NDP Critic for Housing
NDP Deputy Critic for Health