Despite promises from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canada has yet to develop a plan for bring Afghan interpreters and other workers to the country.
OTTAWA - Frustrated by Canada's lack of action to resettle Afghans who worked for the Canadian government in Afghanistan, some Canadian military veterans are using their own money, time and connections to bring them to areas more secure from Afghanistan.
With the withdrawal of Western troops from Afghanistan and the tightening of the Taliban, 100 Afghans who once worked for Canada, and their families, now face the threat of retaliation. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino have repeatedly promised that a plan will be announced soon.
After the end of Canada's combat mission in Kandahar in 2011, the government offered a program that enabled 800 Afghans, mostly interpreters and their families, to s 'establish in Canada. But many veterans continuedent to criticize this program for excluding people who have worked in other roles or who have worked for government contractors. And in some cases, even interpreters have been denied relocation for seemingly minor reasons.
Now Canadian veterans are calling on the Government of Canada to follow through the example of Great Britain, which began to accelerate the relocation of its Afghan employees at the end of May, proposing a new program to relocate its own former workers as quickly as possible.
"Canada collectively realized a few weeks ago that this was really, really serious and a moral obligation, " said Dave Morrow, a retired army lieutenant whoserved in Afghanistan and now lives in Montreal. "But we do not see a public commitment to bring home Afghan interpreters, their families and those who work for the Canadian government.
Efforts to relocate former personnel to safer parts of Afghanistan for a move to Canada were entrusted to a group of volunteers, mostly Afghan mission veterans, and the office from a member of Parliament for Thunder Bay, Ont.
Robin Rickards, who has deployed three times to Afghanistan with the military, said the Most of the interpreters and others who worked with the Canadian military fled areas that came under Taliban control without assistance. two weeks, he estimated, the group helped around 25 to 30 families.
"We just tried to put resources inIt's in the hands of the people who don't have them and who are at risk of being trapped, ”he said. "It's about trying to buy time until the Canadian government can get away with it." "
The Canadian volunteers have mostly provided money to Afghans who need it to escape and advice on less routes. risky towards safety. Mr Rickards said most of the money came from a single member of the group he declined to name.
The Taliban have taken control of nearly half of the Afghan district centers since the start of their current offensive on May 1, according to analysts Afghan Network, a research organization . The Taliban now control more than half of the country's territory, but not its population.
In the areas they have captured, sometimes withouts fight, there are credible reports of violent retaliation against those who supported the government.
The outlook for interpreters and others who worked for the forces are bleak.
Last month, the Taliban said in a statement that people who "show remorse for their past actions " and promise to not "engage in such activities in the future which constitute a betrayal against Islam and the country" would not be harmed.
But few believe these promises. Dozens of Afghans who supported international forces, or worked in civil society or for the Afghan government have already been the victims of targeted killings. Many former interpreters say they have received assassinations. death threats. Image Marco Mendicino with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after being sworn in as Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. Credit ... Blair Gable / Reuters
When Canada finally unveils its plan, as well as the reason for the delay in the announcement, n ' is unclear.
"We are seized by the urgency of the situation and are working quickly to support those who put themselves at risk to support Canada" Mendicino, the immigration minister said in a statement, adding that officials are currently in Afghanistan to assess the situation. "We know that lives are at stake. There is a need for swift action and decisive in supporting the Afghanswho have supported our armed forces, and we will.
Human rights defenders and former military personnel from several countries have warned of the growing threat that Afghan civilians who have worked with the forces led by NATO face the Taliban since alliance has announced the withdrawal of all troops by September 11.
Britain has moved just over 1,500 people out of the country, the UK Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.
The United States, which has a backlog of thousands of applications from those who have worked for the government and wish to resettle in America through its special program of immigration visa, start evacuating applicants to the United States and third countries the last week of July while their applications are being considered.
A coalition of US-based representatives of news organizations, including Hfrance.fr, this week asked Congress to create a special visa program for Afghan journalists and the staff who worked for them. Image Former Afghan interpreters holding signs at a demonstration against the US government in June, outside the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. Credit ... Mariam Zuhaib / Associated Press
In Canada, the current volunteer effort has been largely organized through a Facebook group and the office of Marcus Powlowski, the Thunder Bay lawmaker. that Mr. Powlowski is a member of Mr. Trudeau's Liberal Party, he does not sit in Cabinet and, like all backbenchers in Parliament, has relatively few human or financial resources.
Nevertheless, its small office staff has spent the last six months checking documents provided by the Canadian military to Afghans who want to come to the country, looking for former Canadian soldiers who appeared with them in photos and to follow up on their references.
Mr. Powl owski said he was as much in ignorance that n 'importe which else from the government plan. But he thinks that after a lot of delay the action is finally underway.
"We will get there," he said , “But I think it required some sort of fifth gear. I think governments don't often go into fifth gear. I believe that the cavalry comes to relieve us. "
Adam Nossiter contributed to the report from Kabul, Afghanistan, and Isabella Kwai reported from London.