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Kabul shelters need $ 5 million by Friday to stay open, veterans say

OTTAWA – As a Canadian Forces Combat Engineer in Afghanistan, Corey Shelson’s life revolved around a series of life and death calculations – plotting the safe movement of his comrades around explosives hidden by the roadside and other threats.

OTTAWA – As a Canadian Forces Combat Engineer in Afghanistan, Corey Shelson’s life revolved around a series of life and death calculations – plotting the safe movement of his comrades around explosives hidden by the roadside and other threats.

Today, Shelson’s primary concern as a civilian consultant is how to help protect and possibly move 1,700 Afghan interpreters and their families from the refuge of Kabul shelters to safety outside of Afghanistan and eventually in Canada.

These shelters are expected to close on Friday as the money that keeps them open will run out. This could leave their occupiers at the mercy of the new Afghan Taliban leadership, who took over power this summer.

According to Shelson’s calculation, keeping them open – and the hope of a possible escape for their occupants – can be measured by a simple dollar figure: $ 5 million is needed by Friday.

Shelson says it’s because safe houses cost around $ 20,000 to $ 30,000 a day to operate. He says the tab has been getting higher and higher because the Federal Immigration Department has been too slow to approve travel documents for Afghan interpreters.

Veteran advocates such as Shelson are hopeful that Canadian citizens will answer the call to continue funding shelters, as there is no guarantee the federal government will step up and provide funding.

“Here’s a fact. For $ 5 million you can move 1,700 people. For $ 10 million you can probably move 3,500 people,” Shelson said.

He is part of the network of veterans and Canadian citizens who raised funds to protect the Afghans who worked with the Canadian Forces and the Canadian government as they fought the Taliban and their terrorist allies.

In the past two months, the Veterans Network has raised $ 2 million from 2,200 individual Canadian donors, he said. Shelson’s company contributed $ 50,000 in cash and in-kind services.

The amount that individual donors contributed ranged from $ 25 to hundreds of thousands of dollars in rare cases, he said.

Shelson said he received social media messages from seniors on fixed incomes who wanted to know if a small donation would help. He doesn’t reject anyone.

Jenny Smith, 68, said she was tricked into donating $ 25 after seeing a recent TV report on the plight of safe houses.

“I just felt like I didn’t have a lot of money, but I was praying that if a million people would donate $ 25 to help, you know,” Smith said in a phone interview from southwestern Ontario.

Trevor Street leveraged its success in Vancouver’s buzzing real estate market to donate $ 100,000 through his company, the Partners Marketing Group. Street served as a reservist in the Canadian Army and volunteered for two periods of service in Afghanistan.

“We decided to donate $ 100,000 to help with the shelter effort, after realizing that Justin Trudeau would abandon these people,” Street said.

“If you think this is an issue you don’t agree with and think it’s wrong, pick up the phone, donate. Do your part. It’ll take you five minutes. You won’t. will never run out of money. “

Donations can be made to the Veterans Transition Network at https://vtncanada.org/support-afghan-interpreters/ or by phone at 1-844-CDN-VETS (236-8387).

Shelson said the shelters, which were intended as an interim measure, have so far provided invaluable assistance to Afghan interpreters and their families. This includes food, medical support, and comprehensive COVID-19 testing.

“Babies are born inside safe houses. We have had people recovering from being beaten by the Taliban or interrogated by the Taliban and tortured.

Shelson said Ottawa must speed up the processing of asylum claims.

Citing security considerations, Global Affairs Canada, which is taking the federal lead on safe houses, has not said much on the issue. He said he was working with the Veterans Transition Network and Journalists for Human Rights “to protect vulnerable people in Afghanistan, including human rights defenders, women peacemakers, former Canadian Armed Forces interpreters and staff. locally recruited ”.

Shelson said he was still hopeful the government could find a creative solution to help evacuate more people from Afghanistan. As a combat engineer in Afghanistan in 2010, he had 30 soldiers under his command and faced formidable obstacles.

“Our job was to build the camps and basically keep the travel routes open. So those were the roads we drove on and the paths we walked on.”

Three of the men under Shelson’s command were killed while doing this job. He eventually retired as captain after 13 years in the military, in memory of Sapper Brian Collier, Sgt. James (Jimmy) MacNeil and Sgt. Martin (Marty) Goudreault weighs heavily on him.

He also kept in touch with other ex-performers. One of them reached out earlier this year with a desperate appeal.

“It didn’t start when I tried to help raise $ 2 million to fund shelters. It started with a Facebook post from an interpreter I worked with, and I took a decision: open the message, read it and reply… Do the right thing. Or don’t do it, ”Shelson said.

“It is the right thing to do, to raise awareness of this horrible situation, to try to influence the government to do the right thing and to get these people out of harm’s way.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on November 2, 2021.

Mike Blancfield, The Canadian Press



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Rodney N.

The author Rodney N.