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by Mona Awwad and Nandika Ravi

The Canadian government has vowed to evacuate people who worked on its mission in Afghanistan, and to resettle 20,000 vulnerable Afghans in the aftermath of the worsening situation. However, Afghan refugee claimants living in Toronto are desperately seeking support from the government to expedite claims of family members trapped in Afghanistan, through an open letter addressed to the IRCC.

Sarah Parkinson,  an international development evaluator, feels that the Canadian government isn’t being transparent enough on their efforts to rescue people from Afghanistan.

“The Canadian system is broken, people are literally going to die because of the Canadian bureaucracy. And for me, as a Canadian, that’s just not acceptable,” she said.

“These people are people who have been vetted, their families are back there, they themselves are here and they are the family,” said Sogol Zand, who works as a refugee advocate and support worker for the Afghan Women’s organization.

“They are people who fled Afghanistan because of the values of Canadian government has upheld. They have been working very productive, they help women’s right teachers, artists and business people. And they fled Afghanistan because their lives were in direct threat.”

Snap shot of the letter sent to IRCC and Minister Mendicino

The open letter is calling on the Minister of Immigration Marco Mendicino to issue emergency temporary residency visas which would allow family members stuck in Afghanistan to  move to Canada immediately instead of fighting for their life while waiting for papers to be processed.

“Temporary resident visa is not something, you know, just coming out of the blue,’ Zand said.

‘It has been done before, so requesting that they could be given the temporary residence visa and be evacuated.”

In a press conference on august 25, Mendicino said the government is doing everything it can to expedite Afghan refugee applications.

“My department is working tirelessly to support Afghan refugees,’ he said.

“We are processing applications quickly. We’ve removed all of the red tape without jeopardizing security and we are staying in contact with those who have applied.”

OMNI News reached out to Mendicino’s office for a comment on this letter specifically. His office sent a written response saying more Canadian flights are planned to evacuate people in the coming days, and that IRCC will contact people when it is time to go to the airport. Advocates initiating the letter, however, say the government is not being clear enough.

“I feel like the Canadian government is not really being very clear about its communication and it seems somewhat deliberate, trying to give the impression that it’s doing a lot,’ Parkinson said.

“The problem is, when you read it closely, that program is only for Afghans who are already outside of Afghanistan. It is not about evacuating them. So the only people that the Canadian government has committed to evacuating are those that work directly with the Canadian military and at the Canadian embassy, which is a very, very small number of people,” said Parkinson.

Preferring to be anonymous for the safety of his family in Afghanistan, one of the refugee claimants said he fled from Afghanistan after being targeted by Taliban due to his involvement with international missions.

“I’m an active member of a Canadian Council for Public Private Partnership,’ he said.

“I have twelve years professional background. All my background is with international organizations. In February, I was targeted and treated by Taliban and eventually in one week they give me the threats.”

“So the last threat, when they left a grenade in my home,  I said I want to go.”

“So why I came to Canada because, I came to Canada to save my life and I was looking for a bright future.  Still my family and my three kids, my wife and my brothers, my mother are still in Kabul,” he added.

The refugee claimant dismissed the Taliban’s current promises for a better future of his country and said people do not trust them.

“They are very well trained and taught how to brainwash the people by talking, by giving good words, nice words, beautiful words. But in action, they’re not doing this.”

“You know, since they came to Kabul, they’re reaching door by door and asking for people.”

“If they’re not lying, why people are surrounded in the airport?”

Considering the dangerous situation, officials said Canada is making all its efforts to evacuate people but can encounter challenges on the field. Minister of foreign affairs Marc Garneau said in a press conference that from day one of this operation, “we have been committed to evacuating as many Canadians, permanent residents and vulnerable Afghans as possible.”

“There remain significant challenges on the ground,” Mendecino said.

“However, we know that despite the fact that we have been issuing visas and letters to help ensure safe passage that the Taliban controls checkpoints.”

But advocates, feel that this should not prevent the IRCC from processing visas of family members trapped in Afghanistan.

“The issue is the Kabul airport, that people can’t get to the airport. And that’s true. But that does not explain what’s going on with this group of people. Why aren’t they on the evacuation list? They should be on the evacuation list,” Parkinson said.

“The time to act is now. No one knows what’s going to happen one day or two days from now, so the government needs to act now,” Zand added.