A plane containing more than 300 refugees from Afghanistan arrived in Winnipeg Friday, a spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said.
The 324 government-assisted and privately sponsored refugees arrived on a charter flight from Pakistan and are headed to cities across Canada, including Winnipeg and Brandon, but also Saskatoon, Ottawa and Vancouver, Nancy Caron told Global News.
The arrivals include refugees who had assisted Canada and were brought here via the Special Immigration Measures Program for Afghans.
Caron said more than 17,650 Afghan nationals have arrived in Canada to date — part of a federal commitment to safely resettle at least 40,000 as quickly as possible.
At least 50 of the new arrivals are bound for Manitoba’s second-largest city, according to Brandon-based Westman Immigrant Services.
“It’s the largest intake at a single time that we’ve received,” said Hannah Holt, the organization’s community outreach manager.
“Normally, for government-assisted refugees, our resettlement assistance team will get them kind of trickling in a couple a week or a couple a month or something. So for us to be getting 50 on one day coming to Brandon, it’s the largest intake that we’ve ever had.”
Holt said part of the work leading up to the arrival has involved working on accommodations for the newcomers, as well as pre-arranging appointments with life skills providers, banks, organizations like Service Canada, making sure they have advance notice Brandon will be receiving an influx of new residents.
“They go into temporary accommodation right when they first get here, and that’s when our team work with them every day,” Holt said.
“We’ll help them figure out what their needs are, and then look at all the different accommodation options that we have available, and then slot them into the best-suited place for them.
“We also have a dedicated housing department that our resettlement assistance team are working really closely with. We have really good relationships with landlords across Brandon.”
Once they arrive in temporary accommodation, the organization will work with the individual families to find out their specific needs, learn about their educational and employment backgrounds, as well as help them learn about basics like buying groceries in Canada and using public transportation.
While the refugees had not yet arrived in the Wheat City as of early Friday afternoon, Holt says they’ll be welcomed by the Westman Immigration Services team — and by the Brandon community.
“There is a bit of an excited buzz, for want of a better word. But our whole team is ready to welcome them with open arms and help wherever we can … as we are with all newcomers that come through our doors,” she said.
“It will be the same service that we give Ukrainians. It’s the same service that we give economic class immigrants. We’re here to help everybody.”