EDMONTON — The timeline to get Afghans out of the country is narrowing as the Aug. 31 deadline quickly approaches.
Now, there are growing fears some won’t be able to make it out.
“We are witnessing humanitarian disaster that has got the making of a humanitarian catastrophe with the window closing in,” Edris Azizi, president of the Afghan Charitable Society, said.
“I can just feel the frustrations and desperation of every Afghan life that wants to make it out.”
‘ENSURE THEY CAN BE SAFE HERE’
The local Afghan community and aid organizations have begun laying the groundwork to help refugees settle once they arrive in Canada.
“The situation is changing daily,” Sharon Yeo, director of immigration and settlement service at Catholic Social Services, said. “We’re anticipating there could be some arrivals in the coming weeks,”
“We want to be as best prepared as we can to serve those that are coming to settle into our communities and ensure they can be safe here with their family members and put down some roots.”
Azizi told CTV News Edmonton he fled Afghanistan with his family when he was 14 years old. They travelled for days through the deserts and mountains of Afghanistan to get to Pakistan. Once they arrived, they stayed in India until the government sponsored Azizi and his family to come to Canada when he was 16.
“We were looking forward to going to a country where we had a future an education, so many possibilities,” he recalled.
Courtesy: Edris Azizi
While Azizi remembers the harrowing experience, he said it doesn’t compare to Afghans now who are simply trying to get out of the country because they fear for their lives.
“We’re here to help. Let’s get the most qualified and vulnerable people out before it’s too late,” he said.
Many Afghan-Canadians have been looking for guidance on what can be done for their families through various aid agencies but Yeo told CTV News the situation is too fluid right now to give a direct answer.
“You can imagine if you have someone that you know that’s trying to get out of the country and you’re not able to connect with them or you don’t know what the situation is how desperate and helpless that will feel,” she explained.
“I urge those in power to do everything they can to get Afghans out,” Azizi added.
“We need to continue the dialogue with the Taliban and have negotiations that would allow these deserving and vulnerable families brought to safety.”
‘THIS IS A WORTHWHILE CAUSE’
When refugees do arrive in Edmonton, Azizi wants to remind people that it will be a “major” culture shock for them coming to a country with a different language and way of life. He encourages individuals to help ease those barriers.
“Edmonton is a wonderful city a community that is very generous and we always step up when there is a cause,” Azizi said.
“This is a worthwhile cause, people are coming out of a war zone and I would like to ask my Edmontonians to rally around the Edmonton Afghans and help us settle these people.”
At this time, Azizi said the society is not accepting donations but will let the community know when it’s set-up for that.
With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Touria Izri
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