Afghanistan: Many refugees still have no way to Canada

An organization that raised money to keep interpreters out of the reach of the Taliban is wrapping up its fundraising campaign today.

The Veterans Transition Network is returning to its basic activities, but still pushing Ottawa to save the lives of those it promised to help.

Ottawa has so far resettled just over 6,000 Afghans through its humanitarian program. Of those who assisted the Canadian Forces during their time in Afghanistan, 10,270 people were approved, but less than 600 disembarked.

“It’s been difficult and frustrating for eight months, now nine months,” said Oliver Thorne of the Veterans Transition Network.

The Veterans Transition Network wants the federal government to change its policies for Afghan refugees, including changing some biometric requirements for refugees, as was done in the case of Ukrainian refugees.

The process of arriving in Canada can be blocked by policies such as biometric requirements, which ask refugees to provide their fingerprints and a photo for an application to be approved. Thorne points out that these policies do not match the urgency of the need for people to escape.

“Where our frustration exists is with government policy that doesn’t feel aligned with real evacuation needs,” Thorne said.

For former interpreter Fida and his family, a stalled application meant eight months trapped in a room in Pakistan, their VISAs expired, desperate for any word on an escape to Canada.

“I’m really worried about the future of my children,” he said. “They are deprived of school, have never been to school. »

Retired Major General Denis Thompson advises Aman Lara, a nonprofit organization of veterans and former performers that is at the forefront of evacuation efforts.

He said money from donations and the government is now desperately needed to get the Afghans out, but so is more action from Ottawa.

“Personally, I think this is a situation where a minister needs to step in and shake things up, and it hasn’t been done,” Thompson told CTV News.

The minister responsible, Sean Fraser, declined a request for an interview, but in a statement, his department detailed the challenges of evacuations from a country controlled by the Taliban. The statement added that they are still making efforts to continue to bring as many vulnerable Afghans to Canada as possible.

ADJUSTING TO LIFE IN CANADA

One of Afghanistan’s greatest jurists, Wahida Rahimi, is a refugee who came to Canada. But she said she is still adjusting to life as a refugee in Vancouver, when many other Afghans are still in limbo.

“Maybe it takes time to feel free,” she told CTV News.

Rahimi is a powerful woman, one of the judges forced to flee when the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan last summer.

It was a legendary escape, aided by an anonymous Canadian philanthropist and a baroness in the UK House of Lords.

Now she and her family are settling in British Columbia and she says she is determined to chart a new course.

“Being a lawyer, being a person who can work as a human rights defender, because that’s something we really need,” she said.

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