‘I cannot go to sleep’: Toronto man desperate to bring his family members to Canada from Afghanistan

TORONTO — A Toronto man is speaking out in desperation to have his family brought to Canada after the Taliban seized power of Afghanistan’s capital.

“I cannot go to sleep. If I go to sleep I have dreams. I would have dreams of bombs, of what’s going to happen,” the man said in an interview Tuesday.

CTV News Toronto has agreed to protect his identity because he fears for the safety of his wife, daughter, parents and siblings hiding in the country.

He’s been increasingly tormented with worry and guilt over the spring, summer and especially the past week as the militant group quickly took over the country.

“I live in Canada. I am safe and they are suffering the consequences of my employment,” he said.

He’s concerned a connection could be made to his years of administrative work first with western police forces training Afghan police, including time with the RCMP and Toronto police and later the U.S. government.

Lately, communication with his family is intermittent and they’re on the move sometimes knocking on doors of people they haven’t seen in months in order to stay safe.

“It could be a person from the Taliban militia, stop them or someone [could] report them. It’s a limbo situation. Anything could happen,” he said.

Interview

“I’m trying to navigate what is the best situation to get them out and believe me I don’t know.”

A refugee, the man said he applied for his wife to join him 18 months ago but since the U.S. announced its military withdrawal he’s been sending emails begging federal politicians and reaching out to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada for help him with no concrete answers.

One email from his local MP’s office read, “All we can do now, is wait. IRCC is working around the clock to assist on the evacuation process.”

“It’s a tragic and traumatic situation,” said Djawid Taheri, an Afghan-Canadian immigration and refugee lawyer.

Taheri said he and his colleagues are receiving hundreds of similar calls from families.

Lawyer

Canada has promised to accept 20,000 Afghans, but Taheri said Ottawa needs to come up with a solution to the current situation fast.

People can apply for refugee status after they’ve left their country. With the Taliban in Kabul, Taheri said even with the right papers people can’t get to the airport.

“We have to think outside the box and we have to have some kind of avenue that assists these people today. Not in six months, not after the election, and not in years. Because the processes that are announced for the 20,000 in my experience as an immigration and refugee lawyer take years.”

The man said before the Taliban moved in his wife and father were asking him daily what was going to happen. He said he feels helpless but is trying to stay hopeful.

“I always have respect for Canada. It has always shown compassion for people in need. They announced they will help people in need, Afghan peoples. I know the situation changed too quickly, but every second counts.”

Immigration Minister’s office responds

In a statement to CTV News Toronto, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino’s office said it is looking into the man’s case, but could not provide further information.

“Given the urgent situation in Afghanistan, it’s taking longer than usual to get updates on individual cases.”

Generally, on the evolving crisis, the office said so far its evacuated over 800 Afghans under special immigration measures.

“The Canadian Armed Forces plan to send additional flights when conditions permit, and processing under this program continues.”

“The next phase of this situation will likely be a refugee crisis, as humanitarian needs continue to grow and Afghans flee to neighbouring countries. Canada is ready to respond, and we’re leading the world as one of the first countries to announce a humanitarian program for Afghan refugees. In the coming months, we’ll welcome 20,000 vulnerable Afghans who’ve been forced to flee their country, focussing on women and girls, religious minorities, LGBTQ individuals and others.” 

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