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Taliban fighters stand guard at a checkpoint on a street in Kabul on Dec. 17.MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images

The death of a 10-year-old girl whose family had been approved to come to Canada has led to urgent calls for Ottawa to quickly help other Afghans escape the country.

The little girl, Nazifa, and her family were driving through a Taliban checkpoint in Kandahar to retrieve their passports when gunmen fired on their vehicle. Her father, Bashir, had worked for the Canadian military. Aman Lara, an organization that supports Afghans who meet Canada’s resettlement criteria and works to get people out of the country, said the family of five was on its evacuation list.

Veterans and volunteer organizations that have been assisting Afghans with paperwork and advocating for them said Nazifa’s death is devastating and shows how urgent it is to get people out of Afghanistan.

Tim Laidler, a retired corporal who served in Afghanistan and is executive director of Veteran’s Transition Network, said Nazifa would still be alive if her family were evacuated sooner.

“There is a saying that when you lose a spouse, you lose a limb. And when you lose a child, you lose your breath. This is exactly what the Veterans Transition Network and its partners work to facilitate – evacuations that are breathtakingly urgent,” he said in a statement.

Mr. Laidler said the efforts of veterans, journalists and volunteers to evacuate interpreters and other civilians at risk because of their connections to Canada have gained the support of thousands of Canadians.

He said that if Ottawa thinks this will not last, then it is not seeing “the massive, continuing, and growing support offered daily to this effort. To those in government: this campaign is different; it has struck a Canadian chord of conscience.”

He said it’s time to ease up on paperwork and provide an alternative to passports.

“We need a solution for undocumented and under-documented Afghans who have approved applications. This so profoundly urgent.”

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Immigration Minister Sean Fraser has said in the past that helping people inside Afghanistan is challenging because the Taliban controls exit routes, so Ottawa has to work with partners on the ground to facilitate their safe passage. Mr. Fraser said the government’s commitment to bring 40,000 Afghan refugees to Canada will take about two years.

Alexander Cohen, a spokesperson for Mr. Fraser, told The Globe and Mail on Thursday that Nazifa’s death is “tragic and heartbreaking.” He reiterated that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has been working to process applications quickly. He said thousands have been fully processed for people within Afghanistan, but leaving the country is challenging because of the Taliban’s interference and shifting requirements for documents in the region. He said Ottawa is working with allies and partners to find new routes out of the country.

Retired major-general Dean Milner, who has been working with Aman Lara, Veterans Transition Network, Journalists for Human Rights and other organizations to support Afghans, said Nazifa’s death shows that its time for the government to act with urgency.

“We’re all getting frustrated because we’ve been working on this since July. We don’t feel like we’re making headway.”

Mr. Milner, who was the Canadian commander from 2010 to 2011 in Kandahar, said veterans and volunteers have been meeting regularly with IRCC, but have not seen any action. He said they’ve been asking for proper paperwork for Afghans, so they could try to get them out. He said translators who worked with him are asking for help, and he can’t give them much hope.

Lauryn Oates, the executive director of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, said of Nazifa’s death, “it was just a matter of time.”

“I knew something like this would come eventually, because this has dragged on so long, and everyone has just been kind of left to languish.”

Ms. Oates said 21 members of her staff in Afghanistan and their families are waiting to come to Canada. Two have received visas, and one should soon. E-mails to IRCC from 18 have not been acknowledged. She said Nazifa’s death shows the nature of the risk.

“There’s certain characteristics that might put people in very likely danger, the nature of the job they had or threats they received in the past … but with this little girl … she’s 10.”

Rachel Pulfer, executive director of Journalists for Human Rights, has been working to help Afghans in high-risk groups, such as journalists and others, that the government vowed to bring to Canada. “We are inundated with requests for help,” she said.

“Every day that some of these people spend in Afghanistan is another day that, like Nazifa, they risk being killed.”

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