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UNITED SIKHS Calls Upon Canadian Prime Minister and House of Commons to Provide Asylum To Afghan Minorities

OTTAWA, Canada—UNITED SIKHS this week announced a call to action in the House of Commons alongside several members of Parliament to address the increasingly desperate plight of religious minorities in Afghanistan. After gaining the support of several policy stakeholders, including MPs Garnett Genuis, Elizabeth May, Cheryl Hardcastle, Harold Albrecht, Lisa Raitt, Arnold Viersen and Bob Saroya, following a series of targeted terrorist attacks against Sikhs over the summer, the non-profit human rights organization is now calling upon Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to urgently process asylum for minorities facing religious persecution.
 
“I was very pleased to join with so many members of various opposition parties, including the Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party, to table a petition in the House of Commons in support of persecuted minority communities in Afghanistan,” said MP Genuis, who led the news conference on Wednesday. “The cross-party engagement on this will hopefully help to move the ball forward and bring about government action – in terms of advocacy, and in terms of facilitating the private sponsorship of refugees by the community here in Canada.”
 
UNITED SIKHS Stand with Members of Parliament in the House of Commons to Advocate for Expedited Asylum for Afghan Sikhs
 
The news conference comes within weeks of a written human rights statement the organization submitted to the United Nations during a Human Rights Council Session held in Geneva, Switzerland last month. The three main areas of concern for religious minorities in Afghanistan, as outlined by UNITED SIKHS, are personal safety/security, religious freedom, and the right to life.
 
As recent as last month, a marked uptick of attacks against Hindus and Sikhs across Afghanistan have become increasingly brutal. On Sept. 1, Satnam Singh and his son, who are both identifiable Sikhs, were shot and killed in their own shop in the Herat Province. This is believed to be the second marked attack on the Sikh minority after the Taliban orchestrated a suicide bombing on July 1, in which 13 Hindu and Sikh dignitaries were targeted and killed while on their way to a meeting with government officials in Jallalabad.
 
“The situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating for religious minorities,” said Jagdeep Singh, UNITED SIKHS Director of Human Rights Policy, during the news conference. “Sikhs are forced into segregation and Muslim conversion, and Gurdwaras (Sikh schools of spiritual learning) are regularly attacked by the Taliban and other extremist groups. In 1992, historic records indicate 60,000 lived in Afghanistan (down from 200,000 at one time). Today, there are as few as 1,200 in the country.”
 
In conjunction with the news conference, a petition of thousands of Canadian residents was formally submitted in the House of Commons, led by MP Garnett Genius, urging the Prime Minister to expedite asylum and grant the local Sikh and Hindu community with requested sponsorship.
 
Members of Parliament Submit Petition of Thousands of Canadians Supporting Asylum
 
“This petition calls for the government to do more to advocate with our Afghan counterpart for the rights of these minorities, and it also asks the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to use the powers granted him to create a special program to help persecuted minorities in Afghanistan,” Genius stated to the Speaker while submitting the petition during regular proceedings on the House of Commons floor. “The community here in Canada is ready to sponsor these communities. It’s been three years, it’s time for action.”
 
“At one time, Sikhs and Hindus of Afghanistan numbered in the hundreds of thousands, and today, less than 5,000 remain,” said MP Harold Albrecht in support of the petition presented. “We’re calling on the Minister, pointing out to the Minister, that he already has the power, by legislation, to allow vulnerable minorities to come to Canada as privately sponsored refugees directly from the country where they face persecution, and further urging the Minister to raise the persecution faced by this community with the Afghan counterpart and to strongly advocate for more to be done to protect them.”
 
Building upon this effort, UNITED SIKHS will formally request a meeting with the Prime Minister and Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. In addition, the organization will continue to raise the issue with members of Congress in the United States and Members of Parliament in the United Kingdom.

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