Thursday, December 15, 2022

Canada's Afghan helpers still languishing in limbo over a year later

I seem to have read so many articles like this one about Afghan interpreters, drivers and general helpers who worked with Canadian forces while they were in the country

Everyone seems to be in agreement that their Canadian extradition cases need to be expedited because they are at dire risk of retaliation from the Taliban. There is even an official humanitarian resettlement program specifically for Afghans who worked for Canada, a program that has been operational for over a year now, since the Taliban takeover some 16 months ago. Over 26,000 Afghans have been resettled to Canada, most of them under the humanitarian program, but the promise was to bring 40,000 over.

Many of these Afghans and their families are currently languishing in limbo in Pakistan (these are the "lucky" ones, the ones that managed to get out of Afghanistan), often with visas that are expired or expiring, so that they hardly dare leave their basic one-room accommodation for fear of being picked up by security forces and sent back to Afghanistan. In many cases, they have completed all of the necessary paperwork, health checks, etc, needed for resettlement in Canada, but they are still desperately waiting for "the email". It's a grim situation.

So, why are they still waiting? Despite all the articles, I have still not found a good answer to that question. Immigration Minister Sean Fraser says that there are many possible reasons for the delays, from problems finding space on charter flights, issues processing complex applications, and establishing settlement services in Canada to help with the newcomers. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) says, "For Afghans whose cases are complex, processing will take longer as we work to receive information and work through their application". 

I'm not really sure what "complex" means in this context, but none of the problems sound insurmountable, nothing that a little more investment and manpower couldn't fix. More people in this position are still gradually trickling into Canada - the process has not ground to a halt completely - but it is painfully slow. Surely, something could be done to rescue the remainder, with a little more urgency.

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