Canadian Military Veterans Fill Void to Help Afghans Who Worked With Them
OTTAWA – Frustrated by Canada’s lack of action to resettle Afghans who worked for the Canadian government in Afghanistan, some Canadian military veterans are using their own money, time and connections to bring them to safer parts of the country. ‘Afghanistan.
As Western troops retreat from Afghanistan and the Taliban tighten their grip, around 100 Afghans who once worked for Canada and their families now face the threat of retaliation. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino have repeatedly promised that a plan will be announced soon.
After Canada’s combat mission in Kandahar ended in 2011, the government offered a program that allowed 800 Afghans, mostly interpreters and their families, to settle in Canada. But several veterans continue to criticize the program for excluding people who have worked in other roles or who have worked for government contractors. And in some cases, even the interpreters have been refused relocation for seemingly minor reasons.
Now Canadian veterans are calling on the Government of Canada to follow the lead of Britain, which began to speed up the relocation of its Afghan staff in late May, by proposing a new program to relocate its own alumni. workers as quickly as possible.
“Canada collectively realized a few weeks ago that this was a really, very serious and moral obligation,” said Dave Morrow, a retired army lieutenant who served in Afghanistan and lives now in Montreal. “But we see no public commitment to bring home Afghan interpreters, their families and those who work for the Canadian government.
Efforts to relocate former staff to safer parts of Afghanistan for relocation to Canada were entrusted to a group of volunteers, mostly veterans of the Afghan mission, and the office of a Member of Parliament from Thunder Bay, Ontario.
Robin Rickards, who has deployed to Afghanistan three times with the military, said most of the interpreters and others who worked with the Canadian military had fled areas controlled by the Taliban unaided. But in the past two weeks, he estimated, the group has helped around 25 to 30 families.
“We just tried to put resources in the hands of people who don’t have them and who are at risk of being trapped,” he said. “It’s about trying to buy time until the Canadian government can get through this.
The Canadian volunteers mostly provided cash to Afghans who needed it to escape and advice on safer routes to safety. Mr Rickards said most of the money came from a single member of the group he declined to name.
The Taliban have taken control of nearly half of the Afghan district centers since the start of their current offensive on May 1, according to the Afghanistan Analysts Network, a research organization.. The Taliban now control more than half of the country’s territory, but not its population.
In the areas they captured, sometimes without a fight, credible reports point to violent reprisals against those who supported the government.
The outlook for performers and others who have worked for Western forces is bleak.
Last month, the Taliban said in a statement that people who “show remorse for their past actions” and promise not to “engage in such activities in the future which constitute treason against Islam and the country “would not be harmed.
But few believe these promises. Dozens of Afghans who supported international forces, or worked in civil society or for the Afghan government have already been victims of targeted assassinations. Many former performers say they have received death threats.
When Canada will finally unveil its plan, as well as the reason for the delay in the announcement, are unclear.
“We are seized with the urgency of the situation and are working quickly to support those who put themselves at risk to support Canada,” Mendicino, the Minister of Immigration, said in a statement, adding that officials are now in Afghanistan. assess the situation. “We know that lives are at stake. Swift and decisive action is needed to support the Afghans who have supported our armed forces, and we will. “
Human rights defenders and former military personnel in several countries have sounded the alarm over the growing threat that Afghan civilians who have worked with US and NATO-led forces have faced the Taliban ever since. that the alliance announced the withdrawal of all troops by September 11.
Britain has relocated just over 1,500 people out of the country, the UK Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.
The United States, which has a backlog of thousands of applications from those who have worked for the government and wish to resettle in America through its special immigration visa program, will begin to evacuate applicants to the United States and third countries the last week of July while their applications are being considered.
A coalition of US-based news agencies, including the New York Times, this week called on Congress to create a special visa program for Afghan journalists and the staff who worked for them.
In Canada, the current volunteer effort has been largely organized through a Facebook group and the office of Marcus Powlowski, the Thunder Bay lawmaker. Although Mr. Powlowski is a member of Mr. Trudeau’s Liberal Party, he does not sit in Cabinet and, like all backbenchers in Parliament, has relatively few staff or financial resources.
Nonetheless, its small office staff have spent the past six months checking documents provided by the Canadian military to Afghans wishing to come to the country, tracking down former Canadian soldiers who appeared with them in photos, and tracking their references.
Mr Powlowski said he was as ignorant of the government’s plan as anyone. But he thinks that after much delay, the action is finally underway.
“We’re going to get there,” he said, “but I think it took some sort of fifth gear. I think governments don’t go into fifth gear often. I believe the cavalry is coming to us. raise.
Adam Nossiter has contributed reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan, and Isabella Kwai from London.
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