Ghiasuddin Shahanshahi has been trying to bring his family to Saskatoon since arriving as an Afghan refugee a year ago.
One member of the family, his sister-in-law, managed to arrive safely in Saskatoon this week, but five others live in a tent on a rooftop in Islamabad, Pakistan. She says they were recently arrested by Pakistani police and now risk being deported to Afghanistan, at the hands of the Taliban.
Pakistan’s government has declared that all undocumented Afghan refugees must leave the country by November 1 or face deportation. Shahanshahi said her family members have been approved as permanent residents in Canada, but they cannot leave Pakistan because they do not have exit permits (documents issued by the Pakistani government) and would be arrested upon approaching the airport.
Shahanshahi wants the Canadian government to work with the Pakistani government on a solution that allows Afghan refugees to leave Pakistan safely before the deadline.
Nadia Manucher, Shahanshahi’s sister-in-law, arrived in Saskatoon on Thursday. She was already in Pakistan as a student before the fall of Kabul and had the necessary documents to travel. She wants to resume her education in Saskatoon.
“I finally feel safe. I feel very happy about my future. I have no words,” Nadia Manucher told Breaking: Thursday at the Saskatoon airport.
Manucher echoed Shahanshahi’s call for the governments of Canada and Pakistan to work together.
“Please do something for the rest of the family. My uncle is sick and there is no one to take him to the hospital. I am very worried,” Manucher said. “He [Pakistani] The police do not respect Afghan refugees. “They treat us like animals.”
According to the UN Refugee AgencyThere are more than 1.3 million registered Afghan refugees and 775,000 undocumented Afghans in Pakistan.
Shahanshahi said his parents, two sisters and a niece fled Afghanistan after seeing friends forcibly married to the Taliban. The family entered Pakistan in February with the help of a smuggler who disguised them as shepherds.
“It took my family a week to travel there, crossing treacherous mountains, using camels and donkeys as transportation, and now they are trapped in this situation,” he said.
Shahanshahi said her father, 67, suffers from stomach pains, made worse by stress. On his way to the hospital on October 9, he was stopped by Pakistani police and discovered that he had no legal documents.
“They came to my parents’ house and arrested my entire family. They put them in jail and not in the police stations,” he said.
He said it took $3,500 to free his family.
Shahanshahi said her concerns are not just for her own family.
“Many other refugees approved to come to Canada are in an endless wait,” he said.
Shahanshahi said the Canadian embassy has not contacted his family at all. He said the embassy should move her family to safe housing or provide them with letters of protection.
He said there is no timeline for when his five family members could come to Canada, and that more than a dozen calls and emails to Immigration, Refugees, Citizenship and Canada (IRCC) have fallen on deaf ears.
“This is the worst case scenario,” he said. “I’m disappointed. Why isn’t Canada helping?”
In an email statement on Thursday, the IRCC said the government, including the Canadian High Commission in Islamabad, continues to closely monitor the situation and engage in active dialogue with Pakistan on the resettlement of Afghans.
“We will continue to work with the Government of Pakistan to expedite the movement of Afghan clients to Canada,” the statement said.
“We continue to explore every avenue and maximize every opportunity, together with our partners, to bring Afghans safely and quickly to Canada.”
When asked about the number of documented and undocumented Afghan refugees waiting in Pakistan to come to Canada, the department said it could not provide any details on operational information, including requested figures, because Afghans are a vulnerable population in Pakistan. .
CBC spoke to Shahanshahi’s relatives still in Pakistan, who say every day being in hiding is a struggle, from accessing bathrooms to preparing meals.
“If anyone finds out about us, we change our location. I don’t know what we should do,” said Shahanshahi’s sister. CBC is not identifying her to safeguard her identity.
Shahanshahi said she has spent many sleepless nights and worries that her family, if caught again, will be jailed.
“My only message to the Canadian government is to please take care of the refugees. If you promise the people, bring them here and help them,” he said.
“The situation is terrible and critical”: Afghan refugee
Muqim Mehran, a former Afghan journalist now in Pakistan with his family of six, said hope is dwindling for those with nowhere to go. He said his family is actively seeking sponsorships from Canada and the United States as the Nov. 1 deadline approaches.
“The situation is terrible and critical for us in Pakistan as the police come to the refugees’ houses during the night and treat all Afghan refugees as terrorists, regardless of whether they have legal documents or not.”
Mehran said a Pakistani visa, which used to be free before the Kabul collapse, now costs more than $1,000.
“The biggest problem is corruption within the Pakistani police. Under the pretext of deporting Afghan refugees, they simply arrest Afghan refugees arbitrarily, transfer them to police stations and then release them in exchange for a bribe,” he said.
“Whether it’s Saskatoon, Canada or any other country, I am seeking asylum in a country where I can live freely and my children can continue their education.”
Mehran said his past as a journalist puts him in an even more precarious situation.
“If they send us back to Afghanistan, the Taliban would kill us,” he said. “The Taliban cannot tolerate free media activity.”
He pleaded with the Canadian government to find a way to resolve the situation.
“Here we are like the leaves of a tree, we can fall at any moment. I’m just praying for us.”