More than 50 former Afghan security guards at the now-closed Canadian embassy in Kabul have produced a video pleading with Ottawa to swiftly issue them travel documents to escape Afghanistan as the Taliban hunt for Western collaborators.
The video, sent to The Globe and Mail, shows the security guards at a safe house holding up signs saying, “We are not safe,” “We want evacuation” and “Please don’t forget us.” Others held up certificates of appreciation that had been given to them for their work safeguarding Canadian diplomats.
On the video, a security guard, whose first name is Jamsid, reads a message: “We are more in danger than anyone else … and we impatiently wait for Canadian government assistance.”
In a WhatsApp interview Tuesday, a security guard named Mohammad requested that the video not be published for fear that the Taliban could identify them. He planned to e-mail the video to Immigration Minister Sean Fraser.
The Globe and Mail is not revealing the last names of the two guards to protect their identities.
At a news conference in Edmonton, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended the slow pace of special visa approvals for Canada’s former Afghan staff compared with the swift and streamlined process for Ukrainian nationals escaping the war in their country.
Afghans who worked for Canada must fill out a number of forms and face stringent security reviews, unlike what is being required of Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion.
“In Afghanistan, the government, the Taliban, is interfering with their ability to be processed. It is unsafe for Canadians to be there on the ground to process so we are having to work with third countries,” Mr. Trudeau said.
Conservative Foreign Affairs critic Michael Chong accused the federal government of a “stunning failure of leadership.”
“Eight months later (the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August, 2021) and the government still hasn’t fixed the bureaucratic roadblocks,” he said. “The Prime Minister has an obligation to fix the problem … and he should override the bureaucrats.”
‘Canada has left us high and dry,’ says former guard stuck in Kabul
Afghan interpreters press Ottawa to rescue their families
Mohammad said he and other security guards were instructed by the Canadian embassy in early August to apply to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) under a special immigration program. They all got an auto reply, saying they received the application and to wait further notice.
Since that time, Mohammad said they have been waiting for IRCC to provide them with travel documents so they can cross the border into Pakistan.
“Honestly, I have almost lost my heart because in Afghanistan, the situation is getting worse, ” he told The Globe.
NDP Immigration critic Jenny Kwan said the Prime Minister is making up excuses for not providing the travel documents, especially for security guards and interpreters who received high-security vetting to be able to work at the embassy.
”Frankly they are running out of excuses. People’s lives are on the line,” she said. “People are not saying help us get out of Afghanistan. They are saying give us the travel documents so we can get out of Afghanistan and to safety.”
Ms. Kwan emphasized that the House of Commons Immigration committee unanimously passed a motion last week calling on the government to simplify the processing for Afghans, as it has for Ukrainians fleeing Russian aggression.
Mohammad, who worked at the embassy as a full-time guard since 2013, said the Taliban are hunting Afghans who worked for Canada and other Western countries and they are getting help from informants.
He and his wife and three young children are in hiding. They abandoned their home in Kabul and are relying on safe houses to avoid being caught by the Taliban.
“Even my best friend does not know my location because I change my location every three or four days,” he said. “I have almost lost the hope for life and I am very disappointed in the Canadian government.”
If he gets caught, Mohammad said the Taliban could kill him or put him in prison and punish his family.
The situation is becoming desperate because he is running out of money. He has had to borrow funds from his uncle and brother to feed his family.
Mohammad provided The Globe with an award of appreciation that he received in 2016 from Canadian Military Police for his unwavering loyalty, exemplary professionalism and ethical behaviour.
“He has markedly contributed to the Military Police security service team’s mission to keep Canadian diplomats safe abroad,” the certificate stated. “His conduct during and outside of work hours brings credit to the security team.”
Mohammad said it was dangerous work at the heavily fortified Canadian compound because of daily threats of suicide bombers and Taliban attacks on Western targets.
“I was in charge of all gates at the embassy,” he said. “Our lives were 100-per-cent dangerous.”
Mohammad said he spent 15 days camped at the Kabul airport in late August, desperately trying to get on an evacuation flight. He fled the airport on Sept. 2 after witnessing the Taliban shoot two people.
“I left the airport when the Taliban started to search luggage and I realized if they find any documents, then they would arrest me,” he said.
Former Afghan interpreters for the Canadian military told the House of Commons special committee on Afghanistan Monday that Ottawa needs to streamline the immigration process for their families, similar to what it did for Ukrainian nationals.
Ms. Kwan said the interpreters’ families who are stranded in Afghanistan have been saddled with onerous paperwork after they already submitted 33 pages of documentation. IRCC recently sent an e-mail to Afghan interpreters, saying they had 30 days to submit additional documents, or their families’ applications may be refused.
“As the government delays the process, the risk to their families will increase and eventually their luck will run out and lives will be lost,” she said.
Last year, the government committed to resettling 40,000 refugees from Afghanistan. More than 10,600 have arrived in Canada since August.
“The real priority needs to be the couple of hundred Afghans and their families that risked their lives to serve Canada that we need to get out of Afghanistan right now because they are the ones being hunted down and killed by the Taliban,” Mr. Chong said.
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