Canada has committed to 40,000 Afghan refugees. 3,500 have reached it. A piece of paper stands in the way

In August, Naik Arbabzada was thrilled when she quickly managed to put together a private group of acquaintances to sponsor her big sister’s family to Canada from Tajikistan, where the Afghans have sought refuge.

The Edmonton group quickly raised $ 60,000 in cash, with one person donating $ 8,000 to dental services for his sister, brother-in-law and six children.

But then they hit a chin because the family has not been able to secure the so-called “refugee status determination paper”, a document they need from the Tajik government to be recognized as refugees in need of resettlement.

Without that piece of paper, Arbabzada, a medical student at the University of Alberta, said her sponsorship group could not even submit an application.

“We urge the federal government to treat the Afghan refugee crisis in the same way as the Syrian refugee crisis by waiving the requirement for RSD so that it does not prevent an applicant from applying for sponsorship,” said Arbabzada, 30, who resettled in Canada with his parents 20 years ago.

(Her two older sisters were left behind in Afghanistan because they were married and could not come as relatives. One is still stuck in Kabul with her family).

Canada has pledged to receive 40,000 Afghan refugees through its special immigration measures and humanitarian resettlement program after the Taliban took over Kabul and returned to power in August. So far, only 3,500 have reached this point.

Ottawa has set a goal to enroll a total of 59,500 refugees by 2021, but so far only 44,300 have been hospitalized, according to data confirmed by the immigration department.

The target for this year’s admission of state-sponsored refugees was 12,500 and 22,500 for those privately sponsored by churches and community groups such as the Arbabzada family. Pr. At 31 October, only 7,800 and 4,500, respectively, had been admitted. The rest of the 44,300 inmates so far were refugees who entered Canada and then were granted asylum.

Officials said Canada’s ability to process immigration applications has been severely hampered since the beginning of COVID-19 amid office closures and travel restrictions here and abroad.

This week, Ottawa confirmed that it has reopened the land border for irregular migrants from the United States, giving them access to seek asylum in Canada, which had sent these potential refugees back south of the border since March 2020.

“As the public health situation improves and the border reopens, Canada has removed the temporary public health measures restricting asylum seekers’ access and the agreement with the United States has expired,” said Alex Cohen, press secretary to Immigration Secretary Sean Fraser.

“Canada remains committed to maintaining our just and compassionate refugee protection system, fulfilling our national and international legal obligations and protecting the health and safety of Canadians and those who wish to come here.”

While it is good news that these travel restrictions have been eased, Arbabzada said Fraser must also remove the bureaucracy that prevents prepared Canadians from bringing Afghans into crisis.

She said her sister’s family had no plans to move to Canada until June, when they were forced into hiding and forced to flee the country after her brother-in-law was threatened by the Taliban because he was a contractor supplying office supplies, furniture and non-perishable food for foreign companies in Kabul.

However, since he did not work for the Canadian government, the family did not qualify for Ottawa’s special measures to resettle here, leaving private sponsorship the only option.

“It’s a shame that Canada is not able to reach its annual refugee target when it has people like my sister who will be very well supported and waiting to start their lives in Canada,” Arbabzada said.

Members of her sponsor group have approached the immigration department and called on the government to waive the requirement for refugee cards for Afghans.

In an email, a senior immigration official said removing the requirement, even temporarily, would result in a larger number of applications, affecting processing times and timely resettlement of all privately sponsored refugees.

“There is a continuing need to control the intake of these applications to achieve acceptable processing times,” the letter said.

The official’s response disturbs Tema Frank, a member of Arbabzada’s sponsor group.

“The government is talking out of both sides of their mouths,” the Edmonton writer said.

“They are trying to claim the credit for saying we want to support all these Afghans. And yet, when you have Canadians who are ready to support them and make it happen, they are putting this artificial blockade in the way. ”

Nicholas Keung is a Toronto-based reporter covering immigration for Star. Follow him on Twitter: @nkeung

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