Immigration Minister Marc Miller says 5,000 visas will be offered to Palestinians seeking to join family in Canada.

Canada has announced a five-fold increase in visas for Palestinians seeking to join their family members in the country.

Minister of Immigration Marc Miller said on Monday that Ottawa would raise to 5,000 the number of visas offered to residents in Gaza under a special programme announced in December.

“We remain deeply concerned about the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in Gaza. Many people are worried about their loved ones and have expressed significant interest in the temporary special measures we introduced for their extended family in Gaza,” Miller said in a statement.

Miller said the government is working to assist Palestinians trying to leave Gaza, but that movement out of the territory is currently not possible due to factors outside Ottawa’s control.

Gaza residents who wish to join family Canada must obtain approval from Israeli authorities to leave the territory, before undergoing biometric screening in Egypt.

Israel’s military earlier this month seized control of the Gaza side of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt as part of its offensive in the southern city.

“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. Our focus remains on keeping families together,” Miller said.

“Canada continues to put forward the names of those who have passed preliminary screening to local authorities to secure their exit from Gaza. Israel and Egypt are both important partners in implementing these temporary, humanitarian measures and helping people reunite with their family in Canada.”

The announcement came as Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Melanie Joly joined a chorus of international condemnation following a deadly Israeli air strike on a camp for displaced Palestinians in Rafah.

“This level of human suffering must come to an end. We demand an immediate ceasefire,” Joly said in a statement.

At least 45 people, including 23 women, children and elderly, were killed and 249 others wounded in the attack on the tent camp, according to Gaza’s Ministry of Health.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the civilian deaths were a “tragic mistake” and the incident is being investigated.

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