Canada pledges visas for 5,000 Gaza residents related to Canadians

Canada said on Monday it would grant temporary visas to 5,000 Gaza residents under a special program for Canadians’ relatives living in the war-torn enclave, a preparatory move in case they are able to leave in the future.

That figure is an increase from the 1,000 temporary resident visas allotted under a special program for Gaza announced in December, the immigration ministry said in a statement, adding that many people had expressed interest.

“While movement out of Gaza is not currently possible, the situation may change at any time. With this cap increase, we will be ready to help more people as the situation evolves,” Immigration Minister Marc Miller said.

The minister has previously said leaving Gaza is extremely difficult and dependent on approval from Israel.

Latest strike

In one of its latest attacks, an Israeli airstrike triggered a massive blaze, killing 45 people in a tent camp in the Gaza city of Rafah, officials said on Monday, prompting an outcry from global leaders.

Displaced Palestinians prepare to evacuate a tent camp after Israeli forces launched a ground and air operation in the eastern part of Rafah, amid ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, May 10, 2024. (credit: Hussam Al Masri/Reuters)

Canada has been sharing the names of Gaza residents who have passed preliminary screening to local authorities to secure their exit, Miller said. Israel and Egypt are important to the program’s efforts toward reuniting families in Canada, the minister said.

A spokesperson for Miller said 448 Gazans had been issued a temporary visa, including 254 under a public policy, and 41 have arrived in Canada so far.

Nearly 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s offensive in Gaza, according to the local Hamas-run health ministry, and an estimated 1.7 million people, more than 75% of Gaza’s population, have been displaced, according to UNRWA.

Israel launched its military campaign after Hamas-led militants attacked southern Israeli communities on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Rafah strike.