Saudi medical students may remain in Canada and care for patients up to three weeks past a deadline that Riyadh had set for their departure amid a diplomatic spat, several universities confirmed Thursday.
The extension to September 22 was granted after Saudi Arabia, outraged over Canadian calls for the release of activists, ordered all Saudi students home by the end of August.
The reprieve will help students arrange new internships and transfers to schools in other countries.
Dalhousie University in the Atlantic coast city of Halifax, McGill University in Montreal, the University of Toronto, and McMaster University near Toronto — which host the bulk of the affected Saudi students — told AFP they each received a letter this week from the Saudi Arabian Cultural Bureau advising of the new deadline.
Canadian government officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“The medical school was informed by the Saudi cultural bureau that the deadline for withdrawal of Saudi (medical) residents has been extended to September 22,” said Jennifer Lewandowski, a spokeswoman for Dalhousie University.
“The residents from Saudi Arabia have been notified.”
Saudi Arabia earlier this month expelled Canada’s ambassador, recalled its own envoy, froze all new trade and investments, and suspended all scholarships to Canada, after Ottawa voiced concerns over arrests of civil society and women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia and urged Riyadh to immediately release them.