Ottawa vowed to send Afghan interpreters to Canada “as soon as possible”-but the U.S. moves faster
Deputy Prime Minister Christia Freeland said today that translators who helped the Canadian army during the war in Afghanistan should fly to Canada as soon as possible and be resettled here.
“Those who work for Canada are absolutely entitled to come to Canada and should board these planes as soon as possible,” Freeland said at a press conference in Selwyn, Ontario.
“Our desire is to act very, very quickly in this process.”
Freeland made the above comments after the interpreters and other Afghans experienced a day of panic and chaos during the 13-year mission of the Canadian military in Afghanistan.
Ottawa announced last week that it would launch a new plan to relocate these workers to Canada in order to protect them from the Taliban, which is quickly reclaiming territory and putting pressure on major cities across Afghanistan.
But on Wednesday, potential applicants received emails and information packages indicating that they only had three days to apply for the program and flee the country.
The application requires the submission of a multi-page online form and the digitization of sensitive documents of each applicant and their family members.
Advocates of former soldiers and Afghan interpreters say the deadline is unreasonable, partly because there is no reliable electricity or internet in most parts of Afghanistan.
A few hours after the information package was sent, the federal government stated that the three-day deadline is not fixed and it will follow up with applicants who receive misleading information. The government stated that it will not reject any applications because of missing the three-day window.
Some Afghan workers may arrive in the U.S. today
The United States appears to be moving faster than Canada on the resettlement of Afghan interpreters who are now facing retaliation by the Taliban.
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Brinken stated at a press conference in Kuwait today that Afghans assisting the U.S. military and diplomatic missions will begin to arrive in the United States “very, very soon.”
ABC News reported that the first flight with endangered workers is scheduled for Arrive on Thursday night or Friday morning.
Washington is also negotiating with Kuwait and other countries to temporarily resettle Afghans while processing immigration applications.
“The United States is committed to helping those who have helped us during our stay in Afghanistan for the past 20 years,” Brinken said. “We are actively participating in this process, especially in the relocation plan for those brave Afghans and their families.”
Although Ottawa shined ahead of the three-day deadline, people who worked with Afghan interpreters said the damage had already been done.
“I’m shaking my head,” said Cory Shelson, a retired captain and Afghan war veteran. “People who are in a war zone, have no stable access to the Internet, and in most cases don’t have a laptop…we provide them with conflicting guidance.”
Shelson speculated that the email sent to potential applicants was a draft that was sent in error. The government itself did not explain why people were initially told they only had three days to apply.
Freeland said this confusion does not reflect Canada’s desire to support Afghans working with Canadian soldiers.
“Let me say to all Afghans who support the important work done by the Canadian government there-we are very, very grateful for your work, and we absolutely recognize our responsibility to you and your family,” she Say.
Ottawa said that thousands of Afghan workers and their families are expected to resettle in Canada through the program.
Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole stated that the government’s actions do not reflect efforts to truly help people at risk.
“Canadians and these brave Afghans cannot bear the incompetence of the Liberal Party,” he said in a statement.
“The Conservative Party of Canada calls on the Liberal government to do the right and only thing-to extend the deadline for these Afghans and their families to apply to come to Canada.”