(OTTAWA) The number of Ukrainians who have arrived in Canada in three and a half months is now greater than the number of Afghan refugees who have set foot in Canada in eight months. A contrast that disturbs many people, including interpreters who have supported Canadian soldiers on mission.
Posted at 5:00 a.m.
The emotion could be heard in Hameed Khan’s voice on Monday. “We will forever be haunted by the fall of Kabul. We’ve lost. We have failed to build a society where freedom and women’s rights are respected. […] This pain will always follow us. Because we believed in it. We fought for [cet idéal]alongside Canadian soldiers,” he said in his opening statement to the Special Parliamentary Committee on Afghanistan.
His despair escalated when Bloc Québécois MP Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe asked him – “without wanting to diminish what Ukrainians are going through”, he insisted – if he explained the difference between the pace of arrival of Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion and those who have scampered since the return to power of the Taliban.
We are allies. We went to the front with the Canadian soldiers. We have lost people. […] If we compare the way our families are treated to the way Canada reacts in the case of other countries, it is shameful.
Hameed Khan, ex-Afghan interpreter
“We are very disappointed with the false promises of the Department of Immigration,” said the former interpreter.
Since the week the war broke out at the end of February and as of April 10, Canada has opened its doors to 11,084 Ukrainian nationals, including Canadian permanent residents. A fluidity that clashes with that of the reception of Afghans seeking refuge: between last August and April 7, 10,605 set foot in Canada.
The Trudeau government has adopted a series of measures aimed at speeding up the reception of Ukrainians, first by creating an emergency travel authorization, then by lifting the obligation for certain groups to provide biometric data and finally by chartering flights to Canada, among others.
” Two weights, two measures ”
This “creativity” is sorely lacking in the Afghan case, says Maureen Silcoff, a Toronto lawyer specializing in immigration. “People in Afghanistan also need bold measures like those adopted for the Ukrainians,” she argues in an interview.
Canada has decided to make things easier for Ukrainians. We have not seen the same effort to find solutions that take into account the reality in Afghanistan.
Maureen Silcoff, Immigration Lawyer
Among the options that Ottawa could consider: requiring biometric data from Afghan applicants on arrival rather than on departure, notes the lawyer.
Especially since the interpreters have already undergone security checks, adds MP Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe: “They have already passed security tests because they worked for the Canadian Armed Forces. Today, they are asked for biometric data. A photo and fingerprints is nothing, but if you are an Afghan, try to find a center where you can do it! It doesn’t make sense. »
And without wanting to oppose one group of refugees to another, the elected official argues that Canada has “a greater responsibility towards Afghan interpreters and their families”. It is clear to him that there is a difference in treatment between the two cases. “Why are there double standards? he wonders aloud at the other end of the line.
Amnesty International’s Executive Director for Francophone Canada, France-Isabelle Langlois, was not “surprised” to learn that the Ukrainian tap was running faster. “It’s clear that it’s easier for Europeans to get through all the pitfalls than for Afghans,” she says.
So “yes, somewhere, there is a double standard”, but that said, “we see it almost everywhere, in the countries bordering Ukraine which host hundreds of thousands, even millions of Ukrainians and who have extremely violent policies towards all other migrants”, continues Mme Langlois.
Federal Immigration Minister Sean Fraser’s office reports that the situation on the ground in Afghanistan is “very different” and that, on the other hand, those trying to come to Canada want to do so permanently. But Ottawa remains “firm” on its target of welcoming 40,000 refugees, it was reiterated on Monday.
However, we do not point out the failures of the bureaucratic machine, which does not match the testimonies of many applicants who claim to come up against it. “The bottleneck is not government processing capacity. These are the situational and environmental factors in Afghanistan,” a spokeswoman wrote.
Minister Sean Fraser is aiming for “next year” to reach the goal of 40,000. No reception target has been set for Ukrainians. These are temporary visas that allow them to stay in Canada for up to three years at a time. A request for an extension of stay can then be made.
- Number of Afghan refugees who arrived in Canada under the special immigration program for Afghans who assisted the government (interpreters, embassy employees in Kabul, etc.). This is 52% of the total number of 10,605, as of April 7, 2022.
Source: immigration and citizenship canada
- Number of requests for emergency travel authorization to come to Canada from Ukraine received between March 17 and April 6. Ottawa approved 31,895 during the same period.
Source: immigration and citizenship canada