Open Letter to the Prime Minister of Canada
Our 550 Wives and Children are Stranded in Afghanistan
Please Bring Them Home!
Dear Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
Honourable Melanie Joly, Minister of Global Affairs Canada
We are reaching out to you because we do not know where else to turn in a truly desperate situation.
We are a group of 180 Afghan refugees here in Canada who were forced to flee our country. We did not flee last month. We fled 2, 3 and 4 years ago when the Taliban came to our homes, attacked us on the streets and threatened us with execution. We worked in human rights and sexual and reproductive health and many of us were leaders on Canadian funded projects.
We had no option but to leave our spouses and children behind until the documentation for their immigration was completed. None of us imagined that Afghanistan would fall to the Taliban before our families could join us.
With the greatest respect, we are petitioning you to:
1. Expedite processing our families’ immigration files to completion as an urgent priority;
2. Prioritize seats for women and children traveling alone on chartered flights; and,
3. Reassess the terms of cost-prohibitive travel loans to make travel possible for all families.
Most of our spouses are mothers with very young children; 170 women and 385 children under the age of 16. Our families have suffered years of emotional trauma while living in hiding from the Taliban and awaiting reunification with us. In addition, in this new reality where women have lost all rights and freedoms, it is becoming an impossibility for our wives to take care of themselves and our children without a man in the house. We are living in fear for their lives.
Just days ago the Taliban broke into the home of one of our families, searching for the husband who is here in Canada. They terrorized his wife and small children, telling them if he wasn’t there when they came back they would take one of the children. A boy was beaten when he went to buy bread for his family. A teenage daughter has lost all hope of ever leaving and last week said she is contemplating suicide. A young son who has serious medical needs is not getting the care he needs because his mother cannot go out without a man.
Ministers, we are deeply grateful for the promises you have made to resettle 40,000 Afghan refugees and to fast track new immigration files under the recently announced resettlement program. Unfortunately most of our families’ files, which were near completion when Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, are still not finished. Thousands of other families who only recently applied have had their immigration to Canada approved. They are now able to leave the country while our families continue to wait.
Canada is starting to secure seats on charter flights to bring people out of the country, but women and children traveling alone are not being prioritized. There is an urgency to give this most vulnerable group the highest priority - before it is too late and they are forbidden from traveling at all.
The final and most daunting barrier we are facing is the cost of travel, which is staggeringly high due to the crisis. We are grateful that the Canadian government is offering loans, but the current conditions require that we repay them in full after our families arrive. We are determined to build new careers in Canada, but like most refugees we are starting at low wage jobs. We have no sponsors or organizations who can assist with payment, nor do we have status through the Special Immigration program where travel loans may be forgiven. The current loan repayment condition is effectively keeping our families trapped in place.
Prime Minister and Ministers, we trust you can remove these barriers. We are broken with worry and grief. We have truly become the forgotten families in this crisis. Our young sons and daughters are growing up without us in an unending cycle of trauma.
We are proud to call Canada home. We chose refuge in Canada to contribute to this great country and give our children a bright future.
We are unable to finally bring them home without your direct help and we are appealing for your urgent assistance now.
Respectfully and in good faith,
The Forgotten Families of Afghan Refugees in Canada
The Forgotten Families are the refugees in Canada whose spouses and children were in Afghanistan awaiting immigration papers to be finalized when when the country fell to the Taliban.