Afghan refugees stranded for months in Pakistani hotel struggle desperately as they wait for news from Canada

Pictured is the Afghan man and his three-year-old son, who used to supervise tailors working for the Canadian Forces at the Kandahar airport. They are one of several families stranded in Islamabad while they await arrangements to travel to Canada.Saiyna Bashir/Globe and Mail Photography

The children of an Afghan man who worked as an interpreter for the Canadian Army ran up and down the lobby of a hotel in Islamabad waving small Canadian flags. They moved into a herd where the other kids lived.

The children of the interpreter always say the word “email”. They don’t know the literal meaning, but they understand that people are going to Canada when they get them.

This hotel is one of several in the capital of Pakistan Afghans allowed to resettle in Canada Stay while they complete their application and wait for word on their flight. Some have lived in single rooms for a year or more, watching others leave and wondering why they were left behind.

Although they have completed all the necessary steps to travel to Canada, they remain in Pakistan. Special Immigration Program Established for Afghans who have served in Canada’s military and diplomatic missions Afghanistan. Uncertainty leaves families confused and frustrated.

Sitting on a bed in a hotel room, the former translator is surrounded by children. He has five of his own, but many more come and go from other families. He tried to close the door, but gave up after the kids milling around slammed it a few times. He said because they weren’t at school, the kids were running around and fighting all day. With no playground outside, they have nowhere to go.

“I’ve been waiting here for 10 months,” said the translator. The wait was especially hard for his children. “When other families are going to Canada, they look at them and they feel hopeless.”

He said he and his wife were fingerprinted and photographed at the Canadian embassy in Kabul last August, before the Taliban swept across Afghanistan and seized control of the country. The resurgence of fundamentalist groups has left him and other Afghans who have worked abroad in fear of reprisals from the new regime.

The interpreter’s family fled Afghanistan for Pakistan in February and completed the required medical examinations in June.

Most people who complete these steps come to Canada quickly. But the interpreter’s family and others in distress don’t know how long they have to wait. The interpreter said he faced constant danger while working with the Canadian military and that the interpreter’s case should be given priority.

The Globe did not name him, nor did it name the other Afghan refugees interviewed for this story because they feared for their families in Afghanistan.

The former interpreter said the wait had been difficult for his five children, including his five- and seven-year-old sons pictured here.

The Globe spoke to dozens of Afghans in Pakistan who, like the interpreters and their families, are waiting to come to Canada at hotels run by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), as well as others who have not been given hotel rooms and accommodations. Live in cramped dormitories and eat only one meal a day.

As much as they appreciated the accommodation, living in the cramped room was difficult for them. Almost all of their Pakistani visas have expired, and they fear imprisonment or deportation if caught by the police.

As a result, the interpreter said, he and his family rarely went out. “These kids kept asking me to take us to the park. I said, ‘No, I’m not going to take you because I’m scared.'”

As the children continued to mill around his room, his 7-year-old son, Osman, sat next to him, kicking the bed with his legs. He looked at his father with a mischievous smile on his face.

“He keeps asking when our emails are coming, when our emails are coming. You know here, it’s common. ‘Email.’ They don’t know what that means. But when someone gets an email When emailing, it’s a flight booking, and they’re like, ‘We’ve got an email! We’ve got an email! So, he’s like, ‘When are we going to get an email?’”

When other families receive these sought-after emails, interpreters often help carry their luggage to the hotel door before they head to the airport. Osman went with him, but, as the young boy watched the others leave, his expression became dismayed.

The ex-translator’s wives take care of their children. They have been waiting in Islamabad for 10 months.

It’s been over a year since the federal government announced a special resettlement program for Afghans working in Canada.

The government also has a humanitarian resettlement program for Afghans who are vulnerable to the Taliban, such as human rights defenders and LGBTQ people.

Ottawa has pledged to bring at least 40,000 Afghans to Canada. According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, 26,095 Arrived since August 2021, most of them are under the humanitarian programme.

“For Afghans with complex cases, processing times will be longer as we work to receive information and process their applications,” IRCC communications adviser Sofica Lukianenko said in a statement.

Since the beginning of the year, 19 charter flights carrying Afghan refugees from Pakistan have arrived, while other Afghans in Pakistan have arrived on commercial flights, she said.

“Unfortunately, a crisis of this magnitude means that there will always be more resettlement needs in Canada than we can provide,” she said.

Canadian organizations such as the Veterans Transition Network and Aman Lara have brought thousands of Afghans to the relative safety of countries like Pakistan, where they wait to come to Canada.

Tim Laidler, a military veteran who has been leading VTN’s evacuation of Afghans working for Canada, said keeping refugees stranded would make the situation worse.

“We have left many of these families away for over 16 months, wondering if they will be able to come to Canada. Many have completed their process but are still waiting, for reasons unknown, with the added stress and anxiety of having to leave Afghanistan. Traumatic events experienced,” he said.

Brian Macdonald, executive director of Aman Lara, said he was particularly concerned about the prospect of people being sent back to Afghanistan without proper documentation. “It sent shivers down my spine,” he said.

The former tailor executive, who is covered on the left, said he was happy to have a park near where they lived so they could hang out sometimes.

In a guest house not far from the hotel, a three-year-old boy excitedly told his neighbors that he was going to Canada. He mistook the visiting Globe reporter for someone who could arrange the trip.

In Afghanistan, his father Supervise a group of tailors working for the Canadian Armed Forces at Kandahar Airport. The family has been in Pakistan for about seven months.

“It’s like living in prison,” the father said. “My son was crying when everyone was leaving. He wanted to go with them.”

He said his family members had been fingerprinted and photographed and had completed medical examinations.

On more than one occasion, my father’s siblings had received emails about flights, but he had canceled their reservations because they were too young to travel alone. Other family members have not yet received travel authorization.

He turned to IRCC for help many times, Asked for flight information, he said, but the answer was always the same: “We don’t have any updates right now. Wait. Your case is pending.”

When the group moved to a nearby park, his young boy ran down the stairs inside the house and towards the door. After realizing his family wasn’t going to Canada, he buried his face in his father’s pant leg and began to cry.

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser told reporters last week that Afghans trying to come to Canada could experience delays for a number of reasons, including problems finding space on charter flights, issues processing complex applications and issues with Canada. Settlement services collaborate to ensure they are “ready to help newcomers.

Former translator Fida Hussain lived in Pakistan for 14 months with his wife (not pictured) and their five children. He’s been teaching them English as they wait for updates on their trip to Canada.Janice Dixon/The Globe and Mail

In another Islamabad hotel room provided by the IOM, another former military translator, Feida Hussain, opened the door to the room he shared with his wife and five children. They have been in Pakistan awaiting resettlement in Canada for 14 months.

His children sat on the floor on thin mattresses—the same ones they slept on. Mr Hussein’s three-year-old daughter lay on her back, rubbing the back of her leg. “Look at what my daughter was doing? Massaging her leg for the pain. Fourteen months in one room. It was so difficult for a family,” Mr Hussain said. “When is Canada going to get us out of this misery and start our normal lives?”

Mr. Hussein showed the Globe the September 2021 email saying he had been selected to immigrate to Canada and that the International Organization for Migration would arrange for his departure. His family has been living in the hotel ever since.

There is a whiteboard in the corner of the room. He said he has been teaching his children some English.

His 10-year-old son, Roman, rehearsed a well-trained speech: “Hello, IRCC. Please help us. We are in Islamabad since September 14, 2021, waiting for the case to be closed. Please help us as soon as possible.” Provide flights.”

“It was really difficult for us,” Mr Hussein said. “We’re stressed, anxious and confused. We stay up all day and all night just looking at the ceiling and wondering what’s going to happen to our lives? What’s going to happen to my child’s future?”

Children’s toys in a hotel room in Islamabad.

Back at the first hotel, the translator sat cross-legged on the bed, staring at the computer intently.

Since the Globe’s visit earlier this week, at least two other families have received emails saying they will be flying to Canada in December. The interpreter was busy helping his friends fill out the forms needed for the flight. He said he had a friend in Canada who joked that the translator filled out so many forms that he could join IRCC.

“It’s a confusing process,” said the interpreter, busy with his laptop and frustrated by the fact that people who appeared to meet the same qualifications as him were treated differently. He watched Afghan interpreters, NGO workers and others pack up and start new lives while he stayed in his hotel room to fill out their forms.

Two weeks later, the latest family to receive the precious emails left their hotel and boarded a flight to Canada. It was another difficult day for the interpreter’s family. Seven-year-old Osman was so distraught he refused to leave their room. “We are desperate,” said the translator.

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