Afghan refugees spending months in 'ghost' hotels without stable housing, school for kids
A large number of Afghan refugees remain stuck in Canadian hotels — in some cases for months on end — with some unable to even send their children to school.
One ex-military interpreter, who asked not to be identified out of fear for the safety of his relatives still in Afghanistan, spoke to CTV National News about what it has been like living in what some have described as a "ghost hotel."
"I was disappointed," said the former interpreter, whose family has been staying at a Hilton hotel in Mississauga, Ont.
"I cannot see my children to be unhappy."
The man still wears running shoes despite the winter weather because he doesn't have boots of his own.
He says he is grateful that Canada brought him, his wife and their five children, to the country in early September as they and many others fled the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan earlier this summer, following the withdrawal of U.S. troops that marked the end to the 20-year-long American-led war in the country.
However, his kids have yet to be allowed to go to school, there are no kitchen facilities where they are, and he is desperate to find permanent housing.
He believes Ottawa should be watching the settlement agency tasked with helping him more closely, and says "people are not as helpful and forthcoming as they are supposed to be."
"You know, three months, you know, no one from the government, from immigration, has come and interview with us and say, 'Hey, how are you? How's the situation?'" he said.
Out in Waterloo, Ont., Sayed Salahuddin and his family of seven have lived for months in a local Comfort Inn.
The family has struggled to find an apartment or house to rent and has no access to laundry facilities. Their children also have not been able to go to school.
"We were surprised that they were not well prepared for the whole process of accommodating 4,000 Afghans, and they are hoping to bring more people," Salahuddin said.
He says his son didn't even get winter boots in time for the first snowfall.
Meanwhile, some refugees have relied on concerned neighbours for clothing and furniture.
"I think maybe the agencies were overwhelmed, and they keep telling us that they've got everything under control and that they have all the clothing and things they need. But I've seen them outside in sandals still and in cotton clothing," said Fiona Harrower, a retired teacher.
Some families say they have spent what limited money they have on taxis to look for possible rental housing, only to encounter landlords uninterested in renting to them because they're on government assistance.
Agencies say finding rentals has been a major problem as many communities struggle with an affordable housing crisis.
"We are looking for landlords who would be willing to take in a family because that's really what we need, and that's the only way that people will be able to get on with their lives," said Lynne Griffiths-Fulton, interim CEO of Reception House in Waterloo.
A number of groups and veterans organizations have stepped up to help Afghans, and their families, who aided Canadian Forces during the War in Afghanistan, even raising funds to shelter them in safe houses in Kabul.
Canada's role in the War in Afghanistan began in October 2001 following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and lasted until March 2014.
More than 40,000 members of the Canadian Armed Forces served in the war and 158 soldiers died.