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“Catastrophe” in Afghanistan: Canada saves only a fraction of the performers, according to an NGO

“As soon as the Canadians leave, the United States will leave, they will be massacred … It’s a disaster”

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Despite repeated government promises that Canada would save endangered interpreters and other Afghans who worked for that country, only a small fraction of them are airlifted out of Kabul, say advocates for local workers.

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About 90 percent of those flown by Ottawa from Afghanistan are Canadian citizens and permanent residents of Afghan origin, said Dave Fraser, a retired army general with the Veterans Transition Network.

Most performers and other ex-Canadian military and government employees are still waiting for a quickly fading opportunity to flee, he said.

“It’s always absolutely chaotic,” said Fraser, who led Canadian troops on Operation Medusa, that country’s most notorious offensive in Afghanistan. “It’s still incredibly dangerous.”

Chris Ecklund, founder of the Canadian Heroes Foundation, said only 100 of the 1,500 former employees and family members his group helps have made it to Canada. He estimates that the interpreters and their relatives represent only 5 to 10% of the evacuees.

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Meanwhile, the Taliban recently killed several former employees of that country, he said. Although he did not provide any details, such targeted assassinations have long been a hallmark of the organization.

“The government is just not interested in this, they never have been,” Ecklund accused. “We are there now, we have one week left. Are we going to take them all out? The math doesn’t make sense. It does not indicate that.

It’s still absolutely chaotic

Most have not received a visa from Canada and face a dangerous trek from privately funded secure homes in central Kabul to the airport, a trip that may include walking a mile down a sewer. in the open, according to defenders.

Other countries, like the British and the French, brought in hundreds of Afghans from the city in bus convoys.

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Although Canadian government officials told reporters that country’s special forces ventured outside the airport to bring people in, private lawyers say they see little evidence of this happening. produce.

As the August 31 deadline approaches for the departure of foreign forces from Afghanistan, desperation is growing among veterans and other Canadians helping ex-employees.

“It’s a nightmare,” said another Canadian NGO volunteer, who works with government officials and asked not to be named. “It is a disaster of epic proportions.”

Spokesmen for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) could not be reached before the deadline for comment – or to describe who exactly is being evacuated.

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But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday that Canada was prepared to stay in Afghanistan to continue evacuation efforts past the August 31 deadline, if possible.

“We will continue to work every day to bring out so many people alongside our allies,” Trudeau told reporters after a virtual meeting of G7 leaders. “The commitment of our G7 colleagues is clear: we will all work together to save as many people as possible.

  1.     In this file photo taken on August 15, 2021, Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau holds a press conference at Rideau Hall after asking Governor General Mary Simon to dissolve Parliament.

    Trudeau says Canada is ready to stay in Kabul past August 31 deadline after G7 meeting

  2. British and Canadian soldiers stand guard near a canal as Afghans wait outside the foreign military-controlled portion of Kabul airport, hoping to flee the country on August 22, 2021.

    Former Canadian interpreter fears for his life while awaiting evacuation from Afghanistan

However, US President Joe Biden, who set the deadline, has indicated his country will not stay beyond the end of this month.

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Trudeau also said Canada will continue to pressure the Taliban to allow people to leave the country even after the current phase ends.

Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan said in a tweet that Canada had flown 500 people out of the country just on Monday, adding to several hundred previously.

But Fraser said his group believed that only 11% of the 1,000 former interpreters and their families followed by VTN had received visas to come to Canada.

Even if they do receive a visa, getting into the airport and boarding a Canadian plane is a major challenge.

IRCC officials are telling Afghans to make their own way to the compound, despite the threat posed by huge crowds and Taliban guards, Fraser said.

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An Afghan-Canadian working for a Canadian NGO at the airport said it took people several days to get from the city to the airport. The quickest route takes them for three hours through an open sewer, where they then have to wait while Canadian authorities check their papers, said the man, who asked not to be named to avoid conflicts with government officials.

A friend who managed to cross and board a plane said he had traveled for several days as his children were injured by barbed wire and then had to wade through the sewers, he said by phone from Kabul.

A Canadian soldier walks through an evacuation checkpoint during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 24, 2021.
A Canadian soldier walks through an evacuation checkpoint during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 24, 2021. Photo by Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla / US Marine Corps / Document via Reuters

The NGO worker estimated that about 95 percent of those who board Canadian planes are citizens or permanent residents. Most of the interpreters he knows have not even received a visa.

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Once they make contact with Canadian authorities, the fleeing Afghans face another obstacle. IRCC staff categorically reject any family member – including in one case the widowed mother of a former employee – who does not themselves have a visa, the airport worker and a lawyer said based in Canada.

A former Canadian military interpreter in Kandahar province who immigrated to Canada in 2010 argued that Afghan nationals and their families should in fact be given priority over Canadian citizens. They do not have passports that would allow them to leave the country after the departure of foreign forces, he said.

Khan, who asked that his last name not be released to avoid reprisals against his family in Afghanistan, said the policy should extend to relatives of performers like him who have already settled in Canada, as those relatives are at increased risk of retaliation by the Taliban.

There are over 200 ex-performers in Canada and so far no family member in Afghanistan has made it, he said.

“As soon as the Canadians leave, the United States will leave, they will be slaughtered,” Khan predicted. “It’s a disaster.”

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Rodney N.

The author Rodney N.

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