Defense Minister Anita Anand confirmed on Wednesday that Canada will deploy nearly 200 troops to help coordinate the evacuation of civilians from war-torn Sudan.
Before the House of Commons inquiry period, Anand told a hastily assembled group of reporters that two C-130J Hercules transport planes from East Africa were preparing flights to Khartoum “as soon as conditions on the ground permit.”
According to Global Affairs Canada, at least 1,800 Canadians are stuck between belligerents in Sudan, and nearly 700 of them have indicated they want to leave.
Defense sources told CBC News that an infantry company from Camp Betwawa, Ont. They are expected to be deployed to provide protection for troops and help coordinate evacuation. An element from 1st Canadian Division headquarters was also dispatched to provide further supervision and coordination.
A senior federal official who spoke to a media technical formation in Ottawa said that these forces would operate from Jordan.
Anand did not provide an exact breakdown of the military unit and it is not clear if the numbers she provided included the air detachment.
Anand also did not confirm the location of the planes or the direction of the forces. Military flight tracker Stephen Watkins has data showing transport planes were last reported in Djibouti in East Africa.
Federal officials, speaking in the background on Wednesday, confirmed the plane’s presence in Djibouti and said they were accompanied by a small contingent of Canadian Special Operations Force.
Federal officials also said the Canadian frigate HMCS Montreal and the supply ship MV Asterix were in the area and had moved into position with Allied warships off Port Sudan in anticipation of a possible naval evacuation.
Canadian officials said they are focusing on the air evacuation route as many evacuees will have to travel more than 800 kilometers to reach the port. Officials said the UN convoy had to pass through 22 checkpoints “in very dangerous terrain” to reach the port.
Anand said the movement of Canadian personnel and equipment is already under way.
The Canadian Armed Forces is providing military assistance to Canada’s efforts to evacuate qualified Canadians from Sudan. It added that Canadian Armed Forces personnel and assets have been deployed to the region and are planning evacuations in a hostile and unstable security environment. to reporters.
The minister did not say when the actual evacuations would begin. Much seems to depend on how long the ceasefire between Sudan’s warring factions lasts.
“The ground conditions should be suitable for the evacuation of Canadians via Air Canada,” Anand said, adding that the C-130s are ready to start transporting passengers as soon as the ground conditions improve.
Anand said this meant that the plane should be able to land safely and that the Canadian evacuees must reach the Khartoum military airport used by other allied countries to evacuate them.
A federal official speaking in the background said consular services were still provided to Canadians through an emergency center in Ottawa. They said they are communicating with people on the ground who are registered with the government.
“There are no guarantees of future evacuation plans after this week,” the official stressed.
The Sudanese Canadian Community Association has called on Ottawa to put in place special immigration procedures that would open the door to non-citizen family members. They want something similar to what was offered to the Afghans and Ukrainians who fled their countries.
Foreign Secretary Melanie Jolie said that was a possibility.
“All of this is certainly something that the Immigration Secretary is considering at the moment, something that we will look at and work on,” Jolie said early Wednesday.
Federal officials said that people taking evacuation flights from Sudan will not be charged for the flights — but once in a third country, evacuees may have to pay the cost of getting back to Canada.
“If Canadians cannot afford to travel, they can discuss this with the consular staff,” said a federal official. “The aim is to transfer people to a third country and then assess them on a case-by-case basis in terms of means.”