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Saeeq Shajjan, an Afghan refugee who made it to Canada and whose law firm worked for the Canadian embassy in Kabul for almost 9 years at home in Toronto, on Dec. 14. 2021.Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail

A Kabul lawyer who received refugee protection in Canada is urging Ottawa to prioritize the resettlement of Afghans who assisted the Canadian government in Afghanistan and remain trapped in the country, including 28 lawyers and employees who worked for his firm.

Ten months after the Liberal government began offering special resettlement measures for Afghans, Saeeq Shajjan, founder and managing partner of the Kabul law firm Shajjan & Associates, said his former co-workers have not received any updates from the Canadian government about their refugee applications.

Mr. Shajjan arrived in Canada last September after the Taliban took over Afghanistan, but his former colleagues were unable to escape. Speaking to the House of Commons immigration committee Tuesday, Mr. Shajjan said his former staff are awaiting news from Ottawa as the Taliban hunts down anyone who worked for Canada.

“They do not have access to internet. They cannot get in touch with anyone. They have no means of raising their voices to people in Canada to get the necessary support. So you can imagine how difficult it is for those people,” said Mr. Shajjan, who has appealed to members of Parliament for help since arriving in Canada.

“The way that I was struggling for the past 10 months, with all the support that I have from counsels, from honourable MPs in this House, I get nothing done.”

The federal government has promised to welcome at least 40,000 Afghan refugees to Canada. To date, 14,645 Afghans have arrived. More than half of those – 7,910 – have arrived under a humanitarian program that resettles vulnerable Afghans who escaped the country, such as women leaders, journalists and human-rights defenders, but did not work for Canada. Ottawa has also promised a pathway to permanent residency for family members of former interpreters.

Another 6,735 Afghans who worked for the Canadian military or embassy in Afghanistan have arrived via a special program for those with a “significant and/or enduring relationship with the government of Canada.” The government is aiming to resettle 18,000 Afghans in this category and has received nearly 15,000 applications so far.

Mr. Shajjan said the government should increase the number of resettlement spots it offers to Afghan refugees who worked for Canada and prioritize their cases.

“There are many, many other people from different sectors of life in Afghanistan that are in danger. They deserved to be helped … but at the same time, people like us, people who served the Canadian military in Afghanistan, they are in danger,″ he said.

Mr. Shajjan said his firm was hired by the Canadian embassy and Global Affairs Canada in 2013, and should therefore qualify for resettlement under the special program for Afghans who assisted the government. He said he and his colleagues would often represent the embassy at meetings with various Afghan government ministries, the presidential palace, local courts and municipalities when it was unsafe for Canadian diplomats to go out.

Last month, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser told a parliamentary committee that everyone who has applied to be resettled in Canada would have a response in the next few weeks. Mr. Shajjan said his former colleagues still haven’t heard anything from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). He asked the department to pay “urgent attention” to their situations and and process their applications as soon as possible.

In the coming weeks, the IRCC will reach out to Afghans who have been identified by Global Affairs and National Defence as having had a “significant and/or enduring relationship to the government of Canada” to apply, a spokesperson for Mr. Fraser said. Hundreds of thousands of Afghans have expressed interest in coming to Canada since the Taliban took over, Aidan Strickland said, but Canada can’t accommodate everyone.

“The unfortunate reality is that not everyone who expressed interest in coming to Canada will be eligible under the special programs for Afghanistan.”

Ms. Strickland did not comment on Mr. Shajjan’s colleagues’ cases.

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