Skip to main content

'Lives are at risk': NDP implore feds to speed up resettlement of Afghan interpreters' families

Share

The New Democrats are pleading for the government to speed up the immigration process to allow extended family members of Afghan interpreters fleeing the Taliban to come to Canada.

NDP immigration, refugees, and citizenship critic Jenny Kwan was joined by former interpreters on Wednesday to call on Immigration Minister Sean Fraser to reduce application barriers and speed up processing as their families face escalating threats.

“As the government continues to dawdle on this file, lives are at risk as I speak to you today. Their lives could be at risk and I have to ask this question: What is going on with the government? What is going on with the Ministry of Immigration?” said Kwan.

There are special immigration pathways open to Afghans who assisted the government either through the Canadian Armed Forces’ Kandahar mission or local staff who currently or used to work at the Embassy of Canada to Afghanistan.

The Liberals extended the pathways to certain immediate family members who were in Afghanistan on or after July 22, 2021, when the program started.

After increased pressure from interpreters and opposition politicians, the government announced last November that extended family members would also be eligible to come to Canada through an expedited process.

Extended family members must be: an Afghan national, be outside of Canada at the time of their application, be defined as a child, grandchild, parent, grandparent, or sibling of an interpreter, have a signed statutory declaration from their relative in Canada, and either a valid passport, travel document, or valid identity document.

Interpreters on Wednesday said of the approximately 300 that have used the new pathway since it opened on Dec. 9., not one extended family member has arrived to Canada. Of that group, 65 per cent haven’t received an email confirmation from Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

Ghulam Faizi worked with the Forces from 2009 to 2011 as an interpreter and cultural adviser. He said while he’s proud of his contributions to the Canadian military, the work has left his family exposed to risk, which grows more dire by the day.

“Our families are hiding, our families lost their jobs, our families are on the move from one province to another, from one house to another…My personal family left our property, left [their] jobs, and I’m the only one supporting them,” he said.

“The longer we stay and wait [for] this process, I will guarantee we will lose our loved ones. We lost our loved ones and it will continue.”

Faizi said some have faced difficulties retrieving a passport, given Afghanistan is now under Taliban rule.

“The first question they ask you [is] why do you need a family passport? Where do you plan on escaping? Who do you work for? And who did your family work for?” he said.

Others in third countries have faced issues providing valid travel and identity documents admissible by the host country.

Interpreters are hosting a second hunger strike on Thursday demanding Ottawa expedite its resettlement efforts.

In a statement to CTVNews.ca, a spokesperson for the immigration minister said the department is using “all available avenues” to help Afghans come to Canada, including working with private and non-profit organizations on the ground.

“If this was a matter of will, there would be at least 40,000 Afghan refugees here already. But the reality is that this is a multi-year commitment and the number of factors that we do not fully control remain significant. These are things that we are working on every day—there’s no lack of effort on the part of the Government of Canada,” said Aidan Strickland.

The government predicts their 40,000 resettlement commitment will take approximately two years to achieve. As of March 23, close to 10,000 Afghan nationals have arrived in Canada.

Strickland added that the bottleneck is not the department’s processing capacity, but rather the “situational and environmental” factors in Afghanistan and third countries.

“The timelines for arrival are based on the individual’s or families’ current location and whether we can process their applications accordingly. We also have to factor in whether they have the right documents to travel and the ability to do so,” he said.

“We continue to work with local authorities to resettle individuals to Canada as quickly as we can, but our ability to do so is also impacted by whether and how quickly we get exit permits and the availability of flights to Canada.”

MPs are currently studying the government’s response to the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban and why there was a delay getting people out of the country in a new special House of Commons committee.

IN DEPTH

Opinion

opinion

opinion Don Martin: How a beer break may have doomed the carbon tax hike

When the Liberal government chopped a planned beer excise tax hike to two per cent from 4.5 per cent and froze future increases until after the next election, says political columnist Don Martin, it almost guaranteed a similar carbon tax move in the offing.

CTVNews.ca Top Stories

Local Spotlight

Peek inside the new dinosaur exhibit opening at UBC

It’s been roughly 66 million years since dinosaurs roamed the earth. And when you see this fossil cast of a daspletosaurus in tight quarters – you wouldn’t want the gap between our times on this planet to be any closer.

Stay Connected