Defence Minister Anand says aircraft now in the region are waiting for a safe moment to take passengers
Canada will deploy roughly 200 troops to help coordinate the evacuation of civilians from war-torn Sudan, Defence Minister Anita Anand confirmed Wednesday.
Ahead of question period in the House of Commons, Anand told a hastily assembled group of reporters that two C-130J Hercules transports are in east Africa preparing for flights into Khartoum "as soon as conditions on the ground permit."
Global Affairs Canada says that up to 1,800 Canadians are trapped between the warring parties in Sudan and roughly 700 of them have indicated they want out.
Defence sources tell CBC News that a company of infantry soldiers from Camp Petawawa, Ont. is expected to be deployed to provide force protection and help coordinate the evacuation. An element of the 1st Canadian Division headquarters has also been sent to provide additional oversight and coordination.
Those troops will operate out of Jordan, said a senior federal official who spoke on background at a technical briefing in Ottawa.
200 troops sent to help get Canadians out of Sudan
The federal government has deployed roughly 200 troops to help Canadians who are trapped in Sudan amid violence and chaos. There are also Canadian military that are preparing for flights once it's safe to land in the country.
Anand did not give a precise breakdown of the military contingent and it's not clear whether the numbers she presented include the air detachment.
Anand also did not confirm the locations of the aircraft or where the troops are headed. Military flight tracker Steffan Watkins has data that shows the transport planes were last reported in the east African country of Djibouti.
Federal officials, speaking on background Wednesday, confirmed the presence of the aircraft in Dijibouti and said they're accompanied by a small contingent of Canada's special operations force.
Federal officials also said the Canadian frigate HMCS Montreal and the supply vessel MV Asterix are in the region and have moved into position with allied warships off the port of Sudan in anticipation of a possible seaborne evacuation.
Canadian officials said they're focused on the air evacuation route because many evacuees would have to travel more than 800 kilometres to reach the port. The officials noted that a UN convoy had to pass through 22 checkpoints "through very dangerous terrain" to reach the port.
Anand said the movement of Canadian personnel and equipment is already underway.
"The Canadian Armed Forces is providing military assistance for Canada's effort to evacuate Canadian eligible persons from Sudan. Canadian Armed Forces personnel and assets have been deployed to the region and are planning for evacuation operations in what remains a hostile and volatile security environment," she told reporters.
The minister would not say when actual evacuation operations will begin. Much seems to depend on how long the ceasefire between Sudan's warring factions lasts.
"The conditions on the ground have to be right for Canadians to be evacuated via the Canadian aircraft," Anand said, adding that the C-130s are ready to start taking passengers once conditions on the ground improve.
Anand said that means it has to be safe for the aircraft to land, and safe for Canadian evacuees to get to the military airport in Khartoum that has been used by other allied countries for their evacuations.
A federal official, speaking on background, said consular services are still being provided to Canadians through an emergency centre in Ottawa. They said they have been reaching out to people on the ground who have registered with the government.
The official stressed that there is "no guarantee of future evacuation plans past this week."
The Sudanese Canadian Community Association has asked Ottawa for special immigration measures that would open the door to family members who are not Canadian citizens. They want something similar to what was offered to Afghans and Ukrainians who fled their countries.
Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said it's a possibility.
"All this is definitely something that the minister of immigration is considering right now, and so this is something that we will be looking at and working on," Joly said early Wednesday.
Federal officials said that those on the evacuation flights out of Sudan itself will not be charged for the flights — but once they're in a third country, evacuees maybe asked to shoulder the cost of flying back to Canada.
"If Canadians cannot afford … travel, they can discuss this with consular staff," said a federal official. "The objective is to get people to a third country, then assessed on a case-by-case basis in terms of means."
Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca