The life or death limbo of the Afghans who helped Canada – #podcast



E-mail : *

So after the collapse on 15 a guust I was in office and during these uh few days when they taking the embassy staff and those who work with them taking to the Canada I was thinking that they they will they will definitely save me they will definitely save

Me this is one of the many people in Afghanistan who is involved with the Canadian government the globan male is not naming her because of safety concerns after Afghanistan fell to the Taliban in the summer of 2021 she was hopeful that the Canadian government would help get her out I was waiting for

Them uh in my home when I hear that they lift cble and they lift us I was completely uh under pressure and under stress because of her work she became a target for the Taliban so they they issued my name in the de warning and

They wanted uh me to catch and to to kill me and to take my family many times they attack on my home this woman and her family fled to Pakistan last year she says their lives are under constant threat I am totally under uh uh stress and now in depression in in sever

Depression my my children’s they can’t attend schools I don’t have job here we don’t have food we don’t have medical care so I don’t know I very worri about their future about the education about their food they eating unhealthy food because we don’t have food and then earlier this month the

Government in Pakistan began deporting thousands of people back to Afghanistan many of them were waiting to be resettled in countries like Canada and the threat of being forced back to Afghanistan is terrifying for people like this woman so we are completely in hiding but I have but I have the fear if

I go back if I go back Afghanistan Taliban definitely kill me and my husband my my family the globe’s Janice Dixon has has been in touch with this woman and other Afghans stuck in Pakistan waiting to be resettled in Canada today Janice tells us their stories and why they’ve been stuck in a

Dangerous limbo for so long I’m mana caraman welms and this is the deciel from the globe in Mail Jen it’s great to have you here thanks for having me so we just heard a little bit from the woman that you’ve been been speaking with who’s hoping to be resettled here in Canada uh what can you tell me about her and and the work

That that she did with Canada so she worked for a program that focused on empowering women and helping them bring their goods to the market um she said she did a lot of work with economic empowerment and women’s rights in the country and so she didn’t work directly

For the Canadian embassy but she worked for a program that was very important to the Canadian government and she said something uh about how she had been targeted by the Taliban uh what what happened there that’s right so following the Taliban Takeover in August 2021 she

Said she was part of a very big WhatsApp group chat with others who had worked for programs that were associated with the Canadian government’s work in the country and the people in this group chat were all trying to find out how to come to Canada and they were also

Talking about the Taliban and and what it was doing in the country and this woman was particularly vocal in this chat and she said that one of the members of the group had been detained by the Taliban found all of the names in the chat and that she had ended up on a

List that they were targeting wow okay so once she felt targeted then I guess what what did she end up doing well she spent a lot of time hiding and and I remember speaking with her um throughout that time and she mentioned being you know incredibly fearful but not really

Having a way to Pakistan eventually she made it there with her husband and her children and she’s been there now since um last June wow okay and this is actually something that we’ve heard other Afghan refugees doing as well so she made this this move to Pakistan a

Lot of other Afghan refugees have also ended up in Pakistan why are they going there so these are neighboring countries and for decades Afghans who have fled conflicts in Afghanistan have fled to neighboring Pakistan so there are already millions of Afghans living in in Pakistan and in the case of the Afghans

That we’ve been discussing today they’ve been hopeful to to reach Canada and many go to to Pakistan while they wait for word from the Canadian government um now there’s something important to mention about this overall process and that is that typically the Canadian immigration department will give veterans groups who

Have been busy evacuating Afghans from Pakistan the okay to move them to Pakistan then they stay in in hotels that are are funded by the government um and that’s where they do their they’ll they’ll go and do their Biometrics um they’ll do medical checks and then wait

For flights those are all things you need to get to Canada basically exactly yes and this woman was not invited to apply to the program she’s written to the immigration department dep and a lot of members of parliament a number of times but she has not been invited and

So she did make this journey to Pakistan in hopes of that changing and it still hasn’t what has she said life has been like for her when she’s there in Pakistan yeah it’s been really difficult she was renting a room uh from a Pakistani man who had kicked her out um

Some time ago because she couldn’t afford rent of course she she doesn’t have any money and now since these deportations have begun um that same man has led her back into her home because um because he is obviously showing some compassion and and doesn’t want to see her deported and

So she said that he’s agreed that uh her family can stay for a few months but they might eat one meal a day you know they’re relying on the generosity of of strangers um and I believe like she can’t really work right and with her status right now she can’t work her

Children aren’t aren’t in school and it’s been you know 2 years of that yeah so let’s actually talk about these deportations then because people are are are now getting caught up in this what what exactly is the government doing so Pakistan announced in early October that it was going to deport anyone living

Illegally in the country and of course that overwhelmingly affects um Afghans and so anyone without documents they have been deporting back to Afghanistan and many of these individuals have lived in Pakistan for a very long time and also in this effort people who have been waiting to go to

Canada or other countries have been affected because perhaps their visa has been expired and so they don’t have legal documents to show now the Canadian government has said that Afghans can show police um if if they are arrested or detained email exchanges or you know any anything that they have from the

Canadian government that shows that they have an application in process but from from what I can tell from some of the people I’ve been speaking with there that that hasn’t been enough and so what has the government in Pakistan said about about why they’re deporting people in this way back to

Afghanistan the government has has raised a number of security concerns and have alleged that Afghans have been involved in some recent Islamic militant attacks I mean this this seems like a pretty drastic move though right to send people back across the border uh what what has the response been from the

International Community and I guess organizations especially that that that look out for these things well the Pakistani government has faced widespread criticism over this move I know Human Rights Watch has accused the the Pakistani government of using threats and abuse and and detaining Afghans without documents uh into returning to

Afghanistan um and that group said that that these deportations violate the country’s obligations as a party to the UN convention Against torture and also contravenes international law and and its principle around not forcing people to return to countries where they face risk of torture and and persecution so

The the concern here is if if they’re sent back to Afghanistan they could they could face some really dire situations here then yes for sure and and especially those who have a connection to Canada they’re terrified of living in Afghanistan they are fearful of the Taliban who have beaten and abused

Afghans that have had connections to foreign governments it is just honestly so shocking uh to consider the fact that these Afghans have in some cases um you know sold all of their belongings they don’t have homes to return to they’ve found their themselves finally in the relative safety of Pakistan just to be

Sent back is really devastating for these people according to the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees as of October of of this year there were 3.7 million Afghans in Pakistan and among them around 700,000 Afghans who fled to Pakistan after the Taliban takeover wow okay do we do we have a

Sense of how many how many people have been deported so far so since Pakistan announced these measures in early October more than 280,000 Afghans have left Pakistan now the federal government would not give me figures on on how many people they know have been deported who had been approved

For resettlement in Canada but Aman Lara one of the main groups who has been evacuating Afghans to Pakistan who would travel onward to Canada told me that they’re aware of six families so far that have been sent back wow so these are six families that are we’re waiting

To get to Canada and have now been sent back to Afghanistan that’s right and I did speak with a man uh this morning he was approved to come to Canada along with his wife his wife is pregnant and the two of them were they’re on their

Way to the hospital this week they they were walking to the hospital when they were arrested uh taken to the police station and then promptly driven to the Border oh my god wow so they’re going to a hospital she’s pregnant they’re looking for care obviously and that’s what happens to them

Exactly I guess can you just remind us we we we touched on a little bit but what has life been like in Afghanistan since since the Taliban took over a couple of just over two years ago now what does it mean for these people to be sent back there well for instance the

The man I spoke with this morning who who just arrived he’s staying with his cousin because he’s too fearful to go back to where he lived before because his neighbors know about his connection to Canada knew that he had fled and he’s just so fearful that they would tell the

Taliban that he’s there and so I think that there are a lot of people who are living in fear of course women have no rights in the country at all it’s facing separately a massive humanitarian crisis and so it’s really you know a terrible place for people to return to who

Thought that they were on their way to a new future we’ll be right back so you’ve been reporting on people stuck in Pakistan I wonder how do these experiences that we’ve been talking about today how do they fit in with with other stories that you’ve heard from

People who are there well first of all I I went to Pakistan last November uh to meet with Afghans who were were waiting to come to Canada to hear their stories uh to hear about what they thought was taking so long and in many cases there’s you know some very complicated paperwork

Um they have large families and over the course of my trip there and I I only spent a week in Pakistan but I spoke with dozens of of Afghans that had stories to share and it did strike me then that it had taken so long for so

Many of them to to hear from from the government and it is it’s shocking that a year has gone by and many of them are still in the in the same situation I will raise the case of one family that I met in November and they were not receiving communication from

The government they had sort of seemed to slip through the cracks the man had be been a security guard for Canada’s Embassy in in Cabell and so I went to their uh this room that they rented in in r pendy and he was telling me that his 14-year-old daughter uh had had been

Outside their house and she she went to a bakery and and he could hear her screaming because a motorcyclist had driven by and tried to grab her oh my God and then his wife had quickly interjected that their baby who was their young son who was a year and a

Half had sort of stumbled into the the street in the front and someone had DED him with a hot liquid that burnt his and she showed me this terrible Scar and it had the liquid had burned through his his clothes and burned him um that’s awful yes and and this family was uh

Their Hazara and they it’s a minority in Afghanistan and they were targeted and so after I met them I I was in touch with this this group it’s called operation Abraham and and they’ve been working to help evacuate Afghans and bring them to Canada Canada and they

Were in touch with the government and luckily they were moved to a hotel in Islamabad and then they they have made it to Canada since so that that is a a a good story in the end that they they finally made it here but what I haven’t been able to figure out is

Sort of what differentiates those people from the people who are still waiting and you know there’s this one interpreter who I’ve written about he he’s actually helped tons of other Afghans with their paperwork he has a laptop he helps people fill them out then they fill out their forms they get

Emails with their flight details and he’s you know he brings their their luggage up uh and sees them off to the airport while he’s still there and it’s it’s really hard to get answers on on why it’s taking so long yeah wow so yes it is it is possible for people to get

Through this process but it it does seem like this takes a really it can take a really long time it sounds like there’s lots of um bureaucracy here as well um I I guess do you have a sense Janice of why it why it takes so long to actually

Go through this kind of process I I honestly don’t it’s a question I’ve been trying to answer for a long time and a larger question is how does the government decide precisely who gets to come to Canada because this woman who I interviewed uh you know she worked for this women’s initiative that

Was funded by global Affairs Canada and she was not invited yet she tells me that her boss has made it here and so I think that these discrepancies um are you know very frustrating for these applicants that are looking to the person beside them and they’re thinking

Well why is that person going to Canada and why haven’t I been invited to apply and as time drags on they’re just checking their emails hundreds of times a day waiting for some kind of signal that they’re coming and it’s it’s a really terrible position to be in yeah

Let me ask you actually about I guess refugees a little bit more broadly here in terms of people who come to Canada because there has been criticism of the federal government for its handling of of Afghan refugees especially in comparison to the handling of Ukrainian refugees um because the Canadian

Government in in the year and a half since the the war in Ukraine has happened uh the Canadian government has brought in around 230,000 refugees from Ukraine which is you know a pretty substantial number but we’ve only bought in about 40 ,000 refugees from Afghanistan though and

That’s in you know actually more than two years so a longer period of time why is that why is there such a discrepancy in those numbers I mean you you raised a really good point and this is a question that that does come up um I see it in

The comments of of some of my stories about Afghans and some criticism that it’s discriminatory that it is so much more challenging for Afghans to come to Canada than than ukrainians the programs are very different and so I suppose one important point is that when Afghans do

Eventually come to Canada um if they are government assisted refugees then they have support for a year uh where the government assists them with with housing with health benefits with any supplies they need um with help finding work and they are really being set up to

Build their life here and to start over and you know on the flip side I have heard complaints from the Ukrainian community that there is in fact not enough support for Ukrainian refugees when they arrive because they’re here on a three-year Visa which is you know a a

Visa that allows them to stay here for sort of a short time but not sort of stay here forever so it sounds like yeah the the Visa that the ukrainians are using when they come to Canada it’s a shorter period of time and I guess as

You said doesn’t have as much support as when we’re we’re beinging Afghans and that’s a slightly different program and there is a massive Ukrainian diaspora here many ukrainians are coming to join their their relatives and also many are returning home eventually when they when they feel safe enough to do so so the

Federal government did say they would bring in 40,000 Afghans uh and that that number has been reached um so I guess what happens now Janice because clearly people are still looking for help in coming here that’s right and the government has said that their their resettlement work is continuing and I

Know that the the two main groups who are evacuating Afghans are still very busy moving people who are approved to come to Canada so all of that work continues and I know that the government has surpassed the 40,000 Mark and so clearly they’re not saying we’ve reached

Our cap nobody else is coming the people who are in the pipeline um they’re they are still on their way here so I guess just lastly here Janice I mean what does all this mean for uh for people like this woman that you’ve been speaking with right who’s who’s hoping for some

Help from Canada for for you know a long time now more than two years like what options does she have left well there there are really very few options one is potentially being picked up by a private sponsorship group even if that were to happen it could take years for her to to

Make it here in the meantime she told me that the the man that she’s staying with um I mean she never she never leaves the place where they’re living she’s too fearful fearful she’s in pesar which is close to the border and he said that when he’s walking in the streets that he

Can see police um going door too they’re looking for people they’re very actively undertaking this work of sending people back the situation for her remains extremely dangerous Janice thank you so much for your reporting here and for being here today thanks for having me that’s it for today I’m Mana ramman

Wilms our producers are meline white Cheryl Sutherland and Rachel Levy mlin David Crosby edits the show Adrien Chong is our senior producer and Angela Penza is our executive editor thanks so much for listening and I’ll talk to you tomorrow

Many Afghans waiting to be resettled in Canada have taken refuge in Pakistan since fleeing their homes when the Taliban took control in 2021. That can be a dangerous and difficult situation for them – and now there’s an added concern. The government of Pakistan has begun deporting thousands of people back to Afghanistan.

Today, The Globe’s Janice Dickson shares the stories of people she’s spoken with who are in hiding in Pakistan, or who have been deported already. She explains the dangerous limbo they’re in, and why it’s taking so long to get help from the Canadian government.

How to subscribe to the podcast:

Follow The Globe and Mail


Leave a Reply