Toronto, August 25, 2021 – Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) Executive Director Rachel Pulfer called on Canada and the international community today
- to simplify and expedite visa processes for Afghans fearing for their safety and wishing to leave Afghanistan,
- to clearly open up resettlement opportunities to journalists and staff of humanitarian organizations currently within Afghanistan,
- to provide armed escort to the airport and onto planes whether via Canadian Armed Forces or other allied government support
- to change the criteria for resettlement to include Afghan journalists and their families currently at risk within Afghanistan
- to work with allies to ensure land borders remain open to Afghans wishing to leave.
The need is particularly urgent for Afghan journalists, women journalists and staff of humanitarian organizations, who are visible targets.
Journalists for Human Rights is working with UNIFOR, World Press Freedom Canada, PEN Canada, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Canadian Afghan Lawyers Association, the International Women’s Media Foundation, CAJ, a local network of Afghan journalists and a network of humanitarian organizations to get affiliated Afghan journalists, women journalists and writers, human rights defenders, humanitarians and staff evacuated.
In recent weeks, hundreds of thousands of Afghans have fled to neighbouring countries. Some countries have already prepared to take in a set number of arrivals in temporary shelters, while others have announced their intention to keep their borders closed.
JHR acknowledges that Canada has evacuated 1,700 people from Afghanistan this month, and committed to resettle 20,000 more. However, the process of evacuation and resettlement remains riddled with documentation requirements that do not respect the urgency of evacuation needs. The situation on the ground at Kabul airport remains extremely volatile.
Said JHR Executive Director Rachel Pulfer: “All journalists and fixers who have worked in some visible way with Western organizations are targets in this environment. Female journalists who take on public roles are particularly likely to be attacked. Journalists’ family members are also targets. JHR is currently committed, in partnership with other media freedoms and human rights organizations and the Canadian government, to leverage its knowledge and expertise working in other high conflict zones, to help journalists, especially women journalists, in Afghanistan who have worked with Canadian media organizations or have some other clear connection to Canada, and their families. That is why I’m asking for your support of this effort today.”
Afghan journalists and their families who have left the country in recent weeks must be kept safe and their rights must be protected under international law. There should be an immediate moratorium on all forced returns of Afghan nationals. Countries have an obligation under international law to allow refugees to ask for asylum and for safe passage.
Rachel Pulfer’s full statement is below:
“It is essential that priority be given to Afghan journalists, in particular female journalists and humanitarian workers, who are highly visible targets. It is also essential that journalists who are currently still in Afghanistan be included in criteria to be considered for resettlement in Canada, as right now that criteria only includes journalists in third countries. It is critical for these journalists and humanitarian workers to get safe passage to the airport to be evacuated. And it is important that countries keep their borders open and ensure that those arriving in their country are safe and their rights are protected. Countries should continue to accept Afghan journalists, female journalists, humanitarian workers and their families based on the humanitarian need.
“Canadians are outraged at scenes of desperation in Afghanistan, where thousands of Afghans are trying to leave the country and are unable to do so. As one of the countries involved in the mission in Afghanistan, we have a moral obligation to these people and we cannot abandon them.
“Reliable reports are emerging of journalists and humanitarian workers being hunted in Kabul. Other reports indicate that even those who have obtained visas cannot break through the cordon of armed men at the airport on their own. Meanwhile, too many countries are closing their borders and thousands of visa applications sit unprocessed.
“I am asking the international community to fulfil its obligation to the Afghan people which, right now, means urgently guaranteeing safe passage out of the country for Afghans at risk. Action must be taken to simplify and expedite visa processes, ensure those, especially journalists and fixers who are currently in grave danger, are included in resettlement criteria, and get people to the airport and onto planes safely.”
Journalists for Human Rights is an independent, impartial and politically neutral organization that works across conflict and post-conflict zones in particular to strengthen journalists’ ability to center human rights in their work.
To support JHR’s efforts to evacuate journalists from Kabul, please go to:
Should you wish to support evacuation efforts for journalists, but more habitually support Canadian Association of Journalists, please support the organization at www.caj.ca/donations; JHR is working in partnership with CAJ on this urgent effort.
To support resettlement efforts please see Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan at www.cw4wafghan.ca
We urge journalists in Afghanistan seeking assistance and support with their evacuation to contact the Canadian government at [email protected].
For press inquiries, please contact Mehreen Hasan:
For all other inquiries, contact Rachel Pulfer: