For the past year, Mohad Asef Faqiri has been doing his best to support his wife, daughter and 10-year-old grandson, Hadis Afghanfar in Toronto, as well as Hadis’ parents and two brothers overseas.
Hadis, her grandparents and other family members were separated from her parents at Kabul International Airport in the rush to flee Afghanistan during the Taliban’s takeover last summer. They managed to make it to Canada while her parents and their other children fled to neighboring Pakistan. They hoped to meet again soon after.
But with their Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) denied by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) last month after an eight-month wait, Faqiri doesn’t know when the child’s mother and father will be able to arrive here – and he doesn’t know how much longer Hadis can take apart.
“It’s sometimes difficult to take care of him. He cries, he screams. He has nightmares,” said Faqiri, 58.
“His parents must be here.”
The difficulty of bringing Afghan refugees to Canada is not new, but experts say it runs counter to Canada’s rapid response to help Ukrainian refugees. About 16,000 of the 40,300 Afghan refugees Canada has pledged to resettle have arrived since the government’s commitment last September, in direct contrast to the 136,877 TRVs approved for Ukrainian citizens fleeing the Russian invasion between mid- March and mid-June only.
Denial letters provided to CBC News show that the IRCC rejected their applications because it was not sure they would leave the country after their visas expired.
Kimia Moshiri, the Afghanfars’ immigration consultant, says the family was only qualified for TRV applications, and following IRCC denials, she says she sent a reconsideration letter to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Sean Fraser applying for Temporary Resident Permits (TRPs) instead.
This would have allowed them at least to visit Hadis in the short term. However, she says the decision remained the same.
“IRCC did not consider the best interests of the child in this case, nor did it treat this case in a special way as it involves a separated Afghan family,” Moshiri said in an email. email to CBC News.
“IRCC treated this case in the same way as other VRT applications; we did not expect this.”
Why the Ukrainians but not the other refugees?
IRCC says it cannot comment on individual cases for privacy and security reasons. But in an email to CBC News, IRCC spokesperson Rémi Larivière says that while the department understands when people are disappointed by a visa denial, it needs to maintain certain immigration standards.
“When a visa officer refuses an application, it is because the applicant does not meet the requirements set out in Canadian immigration law,” Larivière said.
However, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has shown immigration experts that these requirements can be lowered and revised in emergency situations – in ways that always seemed out of reach in previous global emergencies, says Janet Dench , Executive Director of the Canadian Council for Refugees.
“It’s a really positive development,” Dench said.
“And what we’re asking is that this way of thinking be extended to other groups.”
For years, the Canadian Council for Refugees has been calling on the Canadian government to expedite family reunification cases, grant TRVs while applicants work toward permanent residency, and TRPs to help reunite families in the meantime. , and to accept more refugees.
While progress has been made in more effectively using these tactics to get Ukrainian refugees to Canada more quickly, it can’t stop there, Dench says.
“It’s something that people wonder: why the Ukrainians, but not the people from Ethiopia, or from Afghanistan, or from so many other crisis situations that people are fleeing?”
In response to the differential treatment of refugees, Larivière asserts that the Canada-Ukraine emergency visa is a temporary program and therefore different from the refugee resettlement program in Afghanistan, since many Ukrainians “intend to return to their country of origin when it is safe to do so”. .”
“Although every situation is different, IRCC is always guided by the same values and principles,” said Larivière.
“Help us in this situation”
In general, the council says immigrants often wait years to be reunited with their families, and often at the expense of their own mental and physical health.
In the case of Hadis, Dench says it may be more difficult to bring his family here than in other cases, because Canadian immigration policy does not lay out a clear path to unite a minor in Canada with relatives. abroad.
Faqiri says while he can try to explore the remaining options to bring his family here, he hopes his appeals will reach Ottawa.
He hopes the federal government can relieve him of the burden of supporting two families, rescuing loved ones caught in a dangerous situation abroad and helping a 10-year-old boy who is struggling to understand why he can’t be with his parents.
“I don’t want to complain about this process at all, because there are a lot of people like Hadis in a bad situation, especially through the Russian situation… They are human beings, they need help like us “, did he declare.
“But I urge the government, and I really urge immigration, to help us in this situation.”