NDP stands up for Afghan interpreters’ families « Canada’s NDP

March 30, 2022 at 9:15 am  Federal, Politics

Liberals’ broken promises put lives at risk says NDP MP Jenny Kwan

OTTAWA — Today, NDP Critic for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Jenny Kwan (Vancouver East) called on Justin Trudeau’s Liberals to fulfill their promise to bring families of Afghan interpreters safely to Canada. This morning, Kwan was joined by former Afghan interpreters representing a group of 300 families who have been waiting for months for the government to process their applications to come to Canada. The longer these families wait, the more their lives are at risk.

“Since the application process opened on December 9, 2021, these former Afghan interpreters representing 300 families submitted over 300 applications,” said Kwan. “To date, not one family from their group has arrived in Canada, and all applications submitted in January haven’t even received a file number. This is unacceptable. Meanwhile, lives hang in the balance. The government must expedite these applications so these families can be reunited safely in Canada.”

Hundreds of Afghan interpreters provided vital service​s to ​the Canadian military in Afghanistan. In early September 2021, just weeks after the fall of Kabul, former Afghan interpreters organized a hunger strike calling on the Liberal government to allow their extended families to get to safety in Canada. They were successful with their advocacy when the government announced new measures for extended families of Afghan interpreters—but the government has yet to process their applications.

“Afghan interpreters feel that they have been betrayed and deceived by the Canadian government,” said Kwan. “Not only did the Liberals fail to properly evacuate Afghans before Kabul fell, interpreters are now stuck in this bureaucratic nightmare, while the lives of their loved ones hang in the balance. The Minister must take immediate action to bring their extended family members to safety in Canada. No more delays.”

Stories from former Afghan interpreters:

“I have had 27 meetings with immigration officials. They consulted us on how to get the program going but after December, it seemed they have stopped processing the applications. Our family members have been told they don’t need a passport. Then they are told to get to a third country. With enormous risk, family members make it to Pakistan, then IRCC said they can’t help us in Pakistan. We have also been repeatedly asked to submit the same documents to multiple government officials with no process. For some, they did not make it.”

“The Taliban told me that once the Taliban retook power, they would kill me for my involvement with the West. My family is ​being hunted down by the Taliban. Already, my father and one of my brothers were killed by the Taliban, while my other brother is missing. With each passing day, I fear that I would lose my other siblings.”

  • Safiullah Mohammad Zahed.

“The government keeps breaking their promise. The Minister told me that he would make sure the application would be processed within weeks. It’s now been close to 3 months, my family is still fleeing from house to house, street to street, province to province to avoid being caught by the Taliban”

Timeline of Events

  • In early September 2021, just weeks after the fall of Kabul, the group organized a hunger strike to advocate for extended families to call attention to the needs of interpreters’ families.
  • On September 17th, 2021, the group had their first of a series of weekly meetings with IRCC.
  • Over the next two and a half months, they advocated for the development of a special immigration measure for extended family members and met with officials and the Minister of Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship. Prior to the opening of the application process on December 9, 2021, Minister Fraser told the family members that travel documents will be provided to them and advised that passports would not be required to bring their family members here.
  • In early December 2021, the group’s leaders were informed that the program they had been waiting for would be open for applications on December 9th; at this time, they were assured that applications would be processed within a matter of weeks
  • Between December 12, 2021 and January 20, 2022, the group submitted nearly 300 application packages for families.
  • Since January, when the Canadian government began ramping up measures for the impending crisis in Ukraine, no response from IRCC has been received by any of these applications.
  • Those families whose application packages were sent in December received only a file number from IRCC (~35% of families).
  • Those families whose application packages were sent in January have received no response at all (~65% of families).
  • As of March 28th, the group has held 27 weekly meetings with IRCC officials, and nothing has changed; not a single family from this group has been brought to Canada.
  • On March 31st, a second hunger strike is planned on Parliament Hill.

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