(Bloomberg) -- A program to provide temporary residency to Gazans with family in Canada isn’t working because they can’t get out of the war-torn region, Immigration Minister Marc Miller said. 

“Right now, hope is pretty slim,” Miller said during a news conference Thursday in Ottawa. While a small number of people have managed to leave — likely at great financial cost, he said — most applicants remain trapped. 

A recent meeting with Israel’s ambassador “was a frustrating meeting on many levels,” Miller said. “We obviously understand where they’re coming from, reacting to a devastating terrorist attack. But again, I made the point that we’re trying to save lives and these are family members of Canadians, of permanent residents.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also pushed the issue, Miller said.

While Canada would consider increasing the 1,000-person cap on applications, Miller said he’s concerned about touting a program that offers false hope, and would like to see progress made first on getting Gaza residents out of the area. He said he’s aware of six or seven other countries considering similar programs but facing the same roadblocks.

“We are all failing Gazans at this point. And I think that is something that we need to realize,” he said. “It’s probably the largest hostage taking right now in the world.”

Read More: One in Four Gazans Are ‘One Step Away’ From Famine, UN Says 

--With assistance from Mathieu Dion.

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