Afghan women’s rights activist waits to come to Canada despite ‘urgent’ status

This gave hope to Farzana Adell Ghadiya in April when the famous Afghan women’s rights activist learned that her visa application had been marked as urgent for processing by Canadian immigration officials.

But nearly four months after that latest update following a Star story highlighting her plight, the 38-year-old languishes in limbo in a country where advocates say they are picking up Afghan refugees sweeping and send back to the Taliban. kiss.

“The country I am currently in no longer grants visas to Afghans, but rather deports them to Afghanistan as a group after the visa expires,” said Adell Ghadiya, who was the chief of staff of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Refugees. Women for the Afghan government overthrown by the Taliban last August.

“This deportation process is even coordinated by the Afghan Embassy in this country.”

The Star has agreed not to disclose the name of the country where Adell Ghadiya is located for its security.

Last August, Ottawa set a goal to bring in 40,000 Afghans under a special immigration program for those who worked for the Canadian government in Afghanistan and a humanitarian program for human rights defenders. of women, human rights defenders, journalists and at-risk minorities.

But as the federal government moves closer to its goal of inviting 40,000 Afghans and shows no intention of lifting the cap, advocates are alarmed at what would happen to those who have yet to hear from immigration officials. .

Earlier this month, during a melee, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser highlighted the challenges of getting Afghans out of Afghanistan as part of Canada’s resettlement effort.

“We are dealing with territory that has been seized by the Taliban, a terrorist entity listed under Canadian law. These are people who have no interest in helping people destined for Canada,” Fraser told reporters.

“Ensuring safe passage has been and remains the number one challenge in successfully resettling people in Canada.

Yet supporters of Adell Ghadiya say they are baffled by why it is taking months for immigration officials to process the temporary residence permit for the woman, who has been out of Afghanistan for nearly a year.

“Farzana was out before the government fell,” said Sharen Craig, who is part of an Ottawa women’s rights network that helps Adell Ghadiya. “She was on a business trip for the Afghan government. I can understand your difficulties in getting people out of Afghanistan, but what is your problem in getting people out who are in the third country and who are waiting in very precarious situations?

“The government there is doing sweeps to pick up the Afghans and send them back by planes. Farzana was on the street and she saw a woman arrested by the police and they asked her for documents. They don’t have a permit to stay there indefinitely.

Adell Ghadiya’s supporters initially tried to bring her here through Canada’s special humanitarian program for activists and minorities. However, to be eligible, an applicant must first register with the United Nations Refugee Agency or the government of the country in which they currently live.

In the country where she is hiding, the UN agency stopped registering refugees a few years ago and the host government is sympathetic to the Taliban and reluctant to issue refugee certificates to Afghans.

Instead, her lawyers helped her apply for a temporary residence permit in Canada in early April.

Matthew Behrens of the Ottawa-area Rural Refugees Rights Network said its members have reached out to their MPs individually – including Jenna Sudds, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Women, Gender Equality and Youth – about the Adell Ghadiya case and had been informed as early as April 12 that the matter had reached Fraser’s office and had been flagged as “urgent”.

“How is it that three and a half months after being marked as urgent, there has been no action? We specifically asked what additional information you might need to finalize the case and the word from the minister’s office has been ‘We have everything we need,'” said Behrens, whose group’s online petition for Adell Ghadiya has already collected 30,000 signatures.

“Dealing with MPs’ offices, they are all frustrated with the immigration minister’s office as we are. They can’t get answers either. We asked them what else we could do, they just said, “Keep up the pressure. They are Liberal MPs.

Meanwhile, Adell Ghadiya, an ethnic Hazara, has already been short of money for months and must rely on charity from her Canadian supporters to survive.

“In this difficult situation, my passport and visa will soon expire and I am afraid that this country will send me back to Afghanistan. I have no chance of living there as long as the Taliban have the power to control the country,” she told the Star from her undisclosed location.

“The Taliban have not changed and women’s freedom is not acceptable to them. Those who fight for the rights of Afghan women are sentenced to death by the Taliban. The Hazaras in Afghanistan are the main target of the Taliban and the attacks are increasing every day.

With her passport expiring, her supporters also fear there will be no way to send her money as she will not be able to collect money through a money transfer service with an expired travel document.

“She was out of money, but she was very proud and didn’t want to ask us, and we all pitched in,” Craig said. “But with an invalid passport, she won’t be able to get the money we send her.”

Behrens said volunteers are in daily contact with Adell Ghadiya to keep him up, but they are worried about his untreated diabetes.

“Even if she could eventually make it to Canada, she could lose her sight and suffer organ damage due to her untreated conditions,” he said.

“We are as a so-called feminist government, subjecting a women’s rights activist to trauma is beyond despicable. His file is in the minister’s office. He can’t go any higher. Why can’t they just open this file, stamp it, issue him travel papers and send him here? »

Behrens said there was already a team of volunteers to help settle Adell Ghadiya in the Ottawa area and all he needed to do was get the permit to come.

“She will in no way be a burden on the Canadian state. She is ready to work. She has free accommodation. She has a tremendous support network,” he said. “So every time Fraser says, ‘Oh, that’s really hard. Well, it’s not that difficult.

Nicholas Keung is a Toronto-based journalist who covers immigration for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @nkeung


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