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Supports for Gaza Strip evacuees to be determined based on need, minister says

OTTAWA — Immigration Minister Marc Miller says the immigration status and supports available for evacuees who escape from Gaza Strip will have to be determined based on individual circumstances once people make their way to Canada.

The federal government has been working to secure the safe passage of more than 400 people with connections to Canada as part of ongoing negotiations between Israel and Egypt that are being mediated by Qatar.

The slow trickle of people allowed through the highly controlled Rafah border crossing has so far included 75 people on Canada’s list of anticipated evacuees, and they are only allowed to remain in Egypt for 72 hours.

The list includes Canadian citizens and permanent residents, as well as eligible family members who don’t have immigration status in Canada.

Global Affairs Canada says it is also aware of reports that four Canadian citizens got out with the help of a third party.

Miller says family members without Canadian citizenship or permanent residency status will be offered temporary status so they can remain in Canada, and if they need work permits, his department will work on that as well.

“I think it’s something we’ll tackle as the case may be,” he said in an interview on Monday.

As for settlement services and income support, Miller said new arrivals from Gaza will be dependent on their Canadian families. The Immigration Department will assess their needs from there.

“We’ll have to look at what that means, and look at the volume,” he said.

“I don’t know the financial situation of a lot of people leaving. I can’t suspect that it’s great, but I don’t presume people don’t have funds, either.”

The Gaza Strip has been under almost constant bombardment since Israel launched a retaliatory attack on Hamas for the Oct. 7 incursion that killed 1,400 Israelis. Another 240 were taken from Israel into Gaza by the armed militant group.

The number of Palestinians killed in the war passed 10,500, including more than 4,300 children, the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza said on Wednesday.

For now, while the border remains completely closed to most of the 2.3 million residents in the occupied territory, Canadian immigration officials have not yet turned their mind to the possibility of welcoming refugees from the region.

“There are a number of security considerations and policy considerations that are compelling us to focus on Canadians. We want to get Canadians out,” Miller said.

But he added that Canada will be humane if people manage to escape the war and flee to its borders.

Miller said that once Canadians are out of Gaza, the next consideration will be whether the government needs to find a way to get Canadians out of neighbouring Lebanon.

Israeli troops and Hezbollah militants and their allies have been clashing for a month along the Israel-Lebanon border since the start of the war.

“That is the next set of considerations that I hope does not come to fruition, because that means that the conflict has escalated,” Miller said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 9, 2023.

— With files from The Associated Press.

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press