Afghans attempting to flee to Canada struggle with red tape – CTV News

When the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban last year became clear, Canada promised to provide safe haven for up to 40,000 people.

But nearly a year later, less than a third have arrived. 

Hamid Paimani, a former translator and journalist, can’t get answers from Ottawa about where his resettlement application stands.

“I tried to reach them and only received an auto reply,” Paimani told CTV National News. “And numbers I tried to reach, they are not responding.”

He’s applied to 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 have applied,” Paimani said, adding that he had actually applied a month before the Taliban took back power.

So far, 10,315 applications have been approved. But only 6,230 people have arrived.

“We find it extraordinarily difficult to ensure the proper security checks are done within Afghanistan because of the Taliban,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said of the situation on Thursday, calling it “completely atrocious” and “heartbreaking” that Afghans who aided Canada are now targets of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Paimani was able to get out of Afghanistan and make it to Pakistan, but he still doesn’t know when he’ll be cleared to come to Canada.

The federal Conservatives say Canada is making it too complicated by requiring a passport that can only be issued by the Taliban, and by mandating biometric screening that can’t be done in Afghanistan since Canada has no presence there.

“The government sat on their hands as they do with many other issues,” Jasraj Hallan, Conservative Immigration Critic, said Thursday, adding that the process of evacuating Afghans who had aided Canada’s military should have begun before the Taliban took back power. “And we are where we are now and this is costing lives.”

Advocacy groups say the process is the problem.

“All of the documentation — it is a giant life or death Easter egg hunt for people to get the permission to travel, and once they get that, we are good at moving them out,” Brian Macdonald, with the non-profit Aman Lara, told CTVNews.ca.

Fida Hussain, who worked as a translator for the Canadian military, has been waiting since last summer to travel to Canada with his family.

“If I go back to Afghanistan, I am sure 100 per cent 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 in terms of where their file stands, what the issues are, has been shocking,” Carroll told CTV National News.

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser offered few solutions in a press briefing Thursday, but suggested answers could come soon.

“We expect that we’ll be able to be in communication with everyone about their particular status within likely a matter of weeks,” Fraser said.

“We’re doing everything we can to move people through the process, but I do want to make sure people are aware that even when people are approved, we’re still dealing with a territory that the Taliban has seized control of.”

It’s not just the long wait that is the problem. Interpreters and others who helped Canada during the war face retaliation from the Taliban as they wait for the green light to come to Canada.

It’s a trip that Aman Lara says it can organize within about 48 hours — but only once applicants have been able to get all the elusive documents together.