Afghans trying to flee to Canada face red tape
When Afghanistan’s fall to the Taliban last year became clear, Canada promised to provide safe haven for some 40,000 people.
But almost a year later, less than a third have arrived.
Hamid Paimani, a former translator and journalist, is unable to get answers from Ottawa on the status of his resettlement application.
“I tried to reach them and only got an automated response,” Paimani told CTV National News. “And the numbers I tried to reach, they don’t answer.”
He applied for a special immigration program for Afghans with ties to Canada that aims to resettle 18,000 people.
“It’s been more than eight months [since] I applied,” Paimani said, adding that he actually applied a month before the Taliban took over.
So far, 10,315 applications have been approved. But only 6,230 people arrived.
“We find it extremely difficult to ensure that proper security checks are carried out in Afghanistan because of the Taliban,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said of the situation on Thursday, calling it “utterly excruciating” and “heartbreaking. “that the Afghans who helped Canada are now targets of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Paimani was able to leave Afghanistan and go to Pakistan, but he still does not know when he will be allowed to come to Canada.
Federal Conservatives say Canada is making things too complicated by requiring a passport that can only be issued by the Taliban and mandating biometric screening that cannot be done in Afghanistan since Canada has no presence there.
“The government has stood idly by as it does on many other issues,” Conservative immigration spokesman Jasraj Hallan said Thursday, adding that the process of evacuating Afghans who had helped the military should have started before the Taliban regained power. “And we are where we are now and it’s costing lives.”
Advocacy groups say the process is the problem.
“All the documentation – it’s a giant life-or-death Easter egg hunt for people to get permission to travel, and once they get it, we’re good at getting them out” Brian Macdonald, with the nonprofit Aman Lara, told CTVNews.ca.
Fida Hussain, who worked as a translator for the Canadian army, has been waiting since last summer to travel to Canada with her family.
“If I go back to Afghanistan, I’m 100 percent sure I’m going to be executed by the Taliban,” he told CTV National News.
It’s a fear that haunts retired Major Paul Carroll as he helps Hussain navigate the immigration process.
“The lack of clarity from IRCC about the status of their case, what the issues are, was shocking,” Carroll told CTV National News.
Immigration Minister Sean Fraser offered few solutions during a Thursday press briefing, but suggested answers may be coming soon.
“We expect to be able to communicate with everyone about their special status within a few weeks,” Fraser said.
“We’re doing everything we can to move people through the process, but I want to make sure people are aware that even when people are approved, we’re still dealing with territory that the Taliban have taken over. Control.”
It’s not just the long wait that’s the problem. Interpreters and others who helped Canada during the war are facing reprisals from the Taliban as they wait for the green light to come to Canada.
It’s a trip that Aman Lara says can organize in about 48 hours, but only once the candidates have been able to gather all the elusive documents.