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Afghan refugees who supported Canada's mission in Afghanistan prepare to board buses after arriving in Canada, at Toronto Pearson International Airport August 24, 2021.MCpl Genevieve Lapointe/Reuters

An Afghan-Canadian family from Toronto is stranded in Kabul because Ottawa still has not issued a visa for their baby, who was born in Afghanistan.

During the chaotic evacuations from Kabul after the Taliban takeover of the country in August, Waheed, his wife and their five children had been approved to board a flight, but they could not make it safely to the airport.

Now, more than four months later, Waheed said he is anxious and frustrated that Ottawa will not help them get out. Without a Canadian visa, his one-year-old daughter can’t travel. She needs it to get through Taliban checkpoints at the airport and to board a flight to Canada in a transit country. She would also require the visa if they tried to get to Pakistan overland. The Globe and Mail is only identifying Waheed by his first name because he fears for his family’s safety.

Waheed and his wife have lived in Canada for about eight years and are permanent residents. They have a home in the East York neighbourhood of Toronto. Two of their children are permanent residents, two are Canadian citizens. Before immigrating, Waheed worked for Canada’s international development agency in Kandahar. He said his family returned to Afghanistan in January, 2020, to support his father, who was having surgery, and to spend time with family. He added that they go for long stays because it’s expensive to travel.

He said Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) indicated the family would hear back about their baby’s visa in November, but more than a month has passed and they have not received any updates.

Patricia Skinner, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, said the government is “working tirelessly including through close co-operation with our international partners” to get people out of Afghanistan.

Ms. Skinner said there are about 260 Canadian citizens, 110 permanent residents and 430 family members still in Afghanistan. Because registration with Global Affairs is voluntary, this number fluctuates. Since August, Ottawa has helped more than 1,400 leave Afghanistan, she said.

Ms. Skinner said because of privacy and security issues, Global Affairs cannot comment on specific cases. A spokesperson for Immigration Minister Sean Fraser repeated the same stand.

Meanwhile, Waheed’s family is worried about the Taliban. They can’t return to Kandahar because of his work with a Canadian agency so they’re staying in a friend’s apartment in Kabul, trying to keep a low profile.

The federal government has faced months of criticism over its evacuation efforts from veterans, volunteers and others who have been working to support Afghans and get them out of the country. In December, the death of a 10-year-old girl whose family had been approved to come to Canada highlighted the urgency of the situation.

Waheed said he is grateful for the support he’s received from those who have been trying to help him navigate the immigration system.

Peter Harris, a former journalist who has been assisting Afghans with ties to Canada get out of the country, said he started communicating with Waheed over WhatsApp through a friend he had met while reporting in Afghanistan.

Mr. Harris described the Canadian bureaucracy as “chaotic.” He said it requires a lot of paperwork and manoeuvring: writing to an immigration e-mail just to find out it’s no longer working. However, he said there are individuals within the bureaucracy who seem to be particularly engaged in Waheed’s file.

When Mr. Harris talks to Waheed, he said he can hear the desperation.

“It’s been disheartening and frustrating, and you’re already dealing with people who are going through a traumatic situation. They feel their lives are under threat.”

In Ottawa, Waheed said, Conservative MP James Bezan’s office staff have also been particularly helpful, adding that they have reached out to IRCC on his behalf.

Mr. Bezan told The Globe that after four months, the government “is out of excuses for leaving behind Canadian families like [Waheed’s] and Afghans who worked with our Canadian Armed Forces.

“It is time to act, to end bureaucratic backlogs, and bring those seeking refuge from the Taliban back to Canada.”

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