CANADA NEWS: “A dysfunctional process”: Thousands of Canada’s allies and their families still stranded in Afghanistan

dWeb.News Article from Daniel Webster dWeb.News

dWeb.News Article from Daniel Webster dWeb.News

dWeb.News Article from Daniel Webster dWeb.News

CANADA NEWS:

‘This is how they operate in a life-and-death situation. It just seems like such a dysfunctional process’

Author of the article:

Tom Blackwell

Publishing date:

Oct 25, 2021 1 hour ago 6 minute read 23 Comments

Taliban members stand next to people rushing to pass to Pakistan from the Afghanistan border in Spin Boldak on Sept. 25, 2021. Photo by BULENT KILIC/AFP /Getty

Abdul Ahmadullah used to think it was just the Taliban he needed to fear as he waited to flee Afghanistan for a new life in Canada.

CANADA NEWS: Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Then came the letters.

Posted a week ago on hotels in Kabul housing former employees of foreign militaries and governments, they warned that now the local branch of the ISIS terrorist group was coming after them, too.

“The situation in Kabul for us interpreters is very dangerous,” said Ahmadullah, who was employed by the Canadian army in Kandahar from 2007 to 2011.

The situation in Kabul for us interpreters is very dangerous

He and his family are not alone. These are just a few of the thousands of Canadian ex-employees, government and federally supported NGOs, and their dependents, who are at grave risk due to that work but remain stranded in Afghanistan.

chaotic airlift ended in August
.

The government set up a special immigration program in June to expedite the admission of such Afghans with “enduring relationships” to Canada. Relatively few made it onto the C-17 Globemaster planes the Canadian Forces flew out of Kabul this summer as the Taliban seized control of the country.

CANADA NEWS: Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Some have managed to escape to Canada since then by traveling overland first to Pakistan.

But more than two months later, the large majority continue to wait in limbo, many hunkered down in safe houses funded by private Canadian groups fast running out of money.


Aman Lara
, one of several veterans and other organizations helping them, provides accommodation in Kabul for hundreds of Afghans, most of whom fled from Kandahar, site of Canada’s 2006-2011 combat mission. It says that it cannot afford to keep the safe houses open beyond Nov. 5.

About 200 of the houses’ residents sent an email to various government officials Monday, pleading for a speedier exit.

“We are all in a dire situation, fearing for our lives every single day,” they said.

CANADA NEWS: Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Shifting rules from Pakistan — a long-time ally of the Taliban — on what documentation is needed to cross its border with Afghanistan explains some of the delays.

But many applicants are still waiting for final approval from Canada. Their helpers claim that some applicants have not received a response from Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

“I’m frustrated for them,” said B.C.’s Lauryn Oates of her employees at a women’s-rights NGO in Afghanistan. It also makes me worry about my government. It is how they function in a life-and death situation. It just seems like such a dysfunctional process.”

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

The Canadian embassy actually alerted

Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan
about the special immigration program before it was publicized, and all 27 local staff members applied, said the executive director.

CANADA NEWS: Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

None have been harmed yet by the Taliban, but as a women’s group linked to a NATO country, their situation remains precarious. Oates stated that “people are very panicked.”

Yet the federally funded group has seen only two families get to Canada — one in the airlift and one since it ended — while three have been assigned “G numbers” by IRCC, considered a de-facto acceptance of their application. The other 22 have effectively had no response, said Oates.

Ottawa says it removed 3,700 people during the last-ditch evacuation effort from Kabul in August. Many of these were Canadian citizens and not Afghan ex-employees or their families.

In total since the program began, IRCC has approved 9,500 ex-workers and their dependents to come to Canada, said Alex Cohen, a spokesman for Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino.

CANADA NEWS: Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

How many of them have made it here is another question.

More On This Topic

How Ottawa failed Afghans who risked their lives for Canada: ‘Blood on our government’s hands’


‘”Maybe they will hang me’: Fearing death, stranded former employees of Canada desperate for another way out of Afghanistan

Cohen said 1,000 “refugees” have been brought to Canada since the air evacuation ended. Many of the “refugees” were ex-employees under the special program. However, some came under separate Canadian initiatives for “vulnerable” Afghans.

Cohen said the government has added staff to key missions overseas to try to expedite the process, has cut some red tape and is working closely with neighbouring countries. According to the minister’s spokesperson, it will look into providing financial support for safe houses.

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

CANADA NEWS: Article content

But he said those next-door nations’ requirements can “shift” and that “complex files often take longer to be processed.”

“We remain in constant contact with applicants who remain in Afghanistan,” Cohen said. “We will exhaust every possible option to get Afghan refugees to safety in Canada.”

With August’s airlift over and the Taliban firmly in control, some of the ex-employees have made it into Pakistan — usually via the Torkam border crossing near the legendary Khyber pass. Before being flown to Canada, they had to pass a medical and biometric screening.

But the numbers actually getting out have been relatively small.

The Veterans Transition Network has managed to move about 260 ex-employees and family members to Canada since the air bridge ended, said spokesman Tim Laidler. That leaves another 2,000 or so of the organization’s charges still in Afghanistan.

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

CANADA NEWS: Article content

Laidler said VTN is grateful the federal government is now working with the group, and applauded a recent $250,000 donation from Scotiabank.

But with the huge cost of helping fund the Aman Lara safe houses, “we are running desperately short — we thought we’d be done in a month after the airlift,” said Laidler. “Due to the numerous barriers in Canada and overseas we are not getting enough people out who deserve to be in Canada.”

Taliban forces stand guard a day after the U.S. troops withdrawal from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan Aug. 31, 2021. Photo by Reuters / Stringer

There was a modest surge of evacuations into Pakistan earlier but “the flow of people out of Afghanistan has almost dried up,” said Wendy Long of the group

Afghan Canadian Interpreters
.

As well as the thousands given a green light by Ottawa but lacking the papers needed to get out, many are still awaiting initial approval by IRCC, said Robin Rickards, an army veteran who’s been deeply involved with the effort.

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

CANADA NEWS: Article content

“Everything has literally stalled out for the last six weeks,” he said. “By every measure, it’s a massive failure.”

Oates said IRCC officials have told her they have simply been overwhelmed by the number of applications under the program.

And some desperate Afghans are trying to take advantage of it, she acknowledged. People with no Canadian connections have been able to recall the widely used email address that IRCC issued to applicants. She argued that such groups have sufficient documentation to prove who is genuine and the vetting process should be easy.

Ahmadullah fled from Kandahar to a safe house in Kabul in July and applied as soon as he could to the federal program. Although his family has their crucial G number, they are still waiting for digital copies of the papers that will allow them to enter Pakistan.

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

CANADA NEWS: Article content

Still, with the end in sight at least, he is only thankful to Canada.

“You can’t blame the Canadian government (for delays), because things happen. This is Afghanistan.”

For those who have actually made it here, there is jubilation.

A former interpreter at the Canadian-run combat hospital at Kandahar Airfield — known as Tony to his ex-colleagues — said he was sure he’d be killed when the airlift ended and he was still in Kabul.

But last month, he, his wife and six children got word that they were approved to cross into Pakistan. They were driven to the border by a van that was arranged by a Canadian NGO. There were three nerve-wracking stops at Taliban checkpoints on the way. The UN’s International Organization for Migration took them to Islamabad after they made it over.

Three weeks later the family flew to Toronto via the U.K.

“I feel like I’m in a different world,” Tony said last week while quarantining at an airport hotel. To protect his Afghan parents, he asked for his real name to be withheld.

“I’m not in stress, I’m not worrying about the future, about what I’m going to do,” he said. Thank you Canada, I’m so happy. Thank you so much Canada, thank you so much.”

NP Posted

Sign up to receive the daily top stories from the National Post, a division of Postmedia Network Inc.

By clicking on the sign up button you consent to receive the above newsletter from Postmedia Network Inc. You may unsubscribe any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link at the bottom of our emails. Postmedia Network Inc. | 365 Bloor Street East, Toronto, Ontario, M4W 3L4 | 416-383-2300

dWeb.NewsRead More

Similar Posts