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Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong said the personal accounts of Afghans suffering at the hands of the Taliban are 'horrific and avoidable,' saying the government needs to prioritize those with enduring and significant ties to Canada.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Opposition parties are sharply criticizing Ottawa for failing to bring Afghans swiftly to Canada as some describe being tortured at the hands of the Taliban while awaiting the necessary documents to settle in this country.

The Globe and Mail reported on Tuesday that people who have aided Canada’s military and diplomatic mission in Afghanistan have been detained and beaten by the Taliban. A former interpreter said he was beaten with a pipe and sticks after Taliban members arrested him when he was retrieving passports. A one-time embassy guard shared photos of abuse the Taliban inflicted on his colleagues.

Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong said the personal accounts are “horrific and avoidable,” saying the government needs to prioritize those with enduring and significant ties to Canada, cut the red tape and urgently work to bring people here.

Mr. Chong said the Conservatives are calling on the government to issue a single-use travel document, which would give Afghans a form of documentation that would replace a passport. He said Ottawa should work with Pakistan to facilitate the entry of individuals who hold such documents to that country.

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan said her party has also called on Ottawa to issue a document of this kind. She said with every passing day, risks are heightened for Afghans. … It is “wrong that the government has left them behind.”

“I cannot imagine the anxiety and the fear that they must be feeling right now and I am so dismayed and I’m angry at the government failure to make good on their promise. No more delays. Cut the red tape. Bring the families here to safety now,” she said.

Canada committed to resettling 40,000 Afghan refugees. So why are thousands still stuck overseas?

Aidan Strickland, a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Sean Fraser, said the government’s commitment to welcome at least 40,000 vulnerable Afghans “has not wavered.”

“We are doing everything we can to help Afghans inside and outside of Afghanistan, including working with partners in the region, state entities, international organizations and non-profit organizations to identify a path forward to secure safe passage for those in Afghanistan.”

Ms. Strickland said issuing what is known as a Single Journey Travel Document would not solve the issue of safe passage in or out of Afghanistan or third countries, where Afghans must travel. She said third countries set their own entry and exit requirements, including whether a passport and visa are required.

Retired major-general David Fraser, who commanded troops in Afghanistan, said the longer it takes to bring people to Canada, the more danger they will face as the Taliban slowly turns the clock back in the country.

“There is a growing concern of what happens to these people who helped us and we continue to have that moral obligation to get them out of the country and into this country,” he said.

Mr. Fraser began volunteering with Aman Lara, an organization that’s been helping evacuate eligible Afghans to Canada, last July. He said he could never have anticipated that resettling Afghans would take this long.

“And today, these people, through no fault of their own, are now living under a regime that resents the efforts that they gave to help us. So, are we going to stand by and let these people suffer? Not on my watch. I will do whatever I can,” he said.

Mr. Chong emphasized that there are too many cases “of Afghans with an enduring and significant tie to Canada, who worked alongside Canadian soldiers during the war in Afghanistan or who worked for our embassy in Kabul, who are being completely abandoned by the Canadian government.”

He said there are Afghan immigration cases that seem to be completely lost within Canada’s bureaucracy. He said there are dozens of examples of Afghans who have never received a file number from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). “They appear to be lost,” he said of their applications.

There’s another group of people, he said, who are vetted and can enter Canada, but can’t travel because they can’t get proper documents locally. This group, he said, could benefit from a single-use travel document.

Mr. Chong said the government needs to stop talking about the fact that it promised refuge to 40,000 Afghans and instead prioritize those who assisted Canada’s efforts in the country. “Those are the individuals to whom we owe a debt of gratitude and to whom we have to move heaven and earth to get them to Canada.”

The Liberal government promised immigration measures last summer aimed at resettling tens of thousands of Afghans. Many still find themselves in desperate situations while they wait for IRCC to approve their applications. So far, more than 12,000 Afghan refugees have arrived since August.

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