TORONTO — Somewhere in Kabul, families in a network of safe houses are running out of time to find a new place to hide, with funds meant to support them dwindling.
Among them are a family of seven, including a newborn baby boy.
“We don’t know how to do, what to do, how to take care of our kids, where we hide our kids because now we already have no home,” the parents told CTV News in a phone interview.
CTV News is protecting the family’s identity for safety reasons.
The sanctuaries were set up as a temporary measure to keep those who worked with Canada during its mission in Afghanistan safe from Taliban retribution after Canada failed to evacuate thousands before the U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan at the end of August.
While some have escaped into other neighbouring countries by land, or been able to fly into other countries on their way to Canada, many are still trapped in Afghanistan while waiting for papers to leave, fearing for their lives.
As the evacuations for these families stretch over months, groups supporting safe houses are running out of cash. This means that now, these safe houses are facing closure on Friday.
“To keep [a] safe house network going, we are talking 20 to $30,000 a day, and that is just not feasible at the pace in which the government is processing applications,” Corey Shelson, a veteran with the armed forces, told CTV News.
Veterans who worked with Afghan translators have raised $2.5 million to try and save them, collecting donations from Canadians, but with lives on the line, they are calling on Ottawa to put in $5 million now to help those on the ground get Afghans out safely.
“They spent a very long time as volunteers supporting Canada’s mission in Afghanistan and helping people like myself stay alive, and it is our duty now to get them out of dodge, get them to Canada so they can enjoy the same freedoms that we do every day,” Shelson said.
The veterans group have pushed to speed up the visa process to make it clear who is eligible to come to Canada.
As the dangers along routes out of Afghanistan escalate, and the country spirals deeper into crisis, they say it is urgent to act.
“Five million dollars to potentially save 2,000 people’s lives, I think, is a reasonable investment,” Retired Maj. Quentin Innis told CTV News.
Those sheltering in safe houses right now fear it may come too late.
“It is a really bad situation for us,” the parent told CTV News. “We are praying all the time the Lord will help us. I hope someone will help us.”
Ottawa has said it is working with veterans and other groups to protect vulnerable Afghans. The target is to get 40,000 to Canadian soil, but they have not set out a timeline to achieve this.
With files from Alexandra Mae Jones