Canadian immigration officials say ‘no’ to Afghan interpreters

Andy Radia
Canada Politics

Afghans, who risked their lives working for Canadian soldiers in Kandahar, are getting a raw deal from Canadian immigration officials.

In 2009, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced Afghan interpreters, who gave 12 consecutive months of service to Canadian forces, and whose lives were at risk from the Taliban, would be allowed to immigrate to Canada under a special visa program.

At the time, Kenney suggested Canada would welcome 450 interpreters while estimating that applicants would only have to wait an average six months to a year to obtain a visa.

As of July, only 60 interpreters had been accepted and average application processing times have been well north of two years.

Moreover, two out of every three Afghan translators who have applied under the program have actually had their applications denied.

The Canadian Press reported most have been rejected for not meeting the program's time requirement which requires interpreters to have worked for Canada for 12 consecutive months between October 2007, and July 2011.

Some, like interpreter Zobaidullah Zobaidi, however, have been asked to provide more evidence their lives are at risk.

Zobaidi told the Toronto Star the Taliban pinned a "night letter" to his door last October warning he would be killed if he didn't quit. He kept working and gave the letter to his Canadian supervisor, who advised Zobaidi to change the route he took to the base, he said.

There are countless stories describing the risks interpreters faced while working for NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Six interpreters were among those killed during the IED strikes that claimed 161 Canadian lives.

Of the 525 Afghan interpreters who have worked alongside British troops, about 30 have quit in the past year because of Taliban intimidation. At least three have been kidnapped and killed since 2006, and two more have been missing for four years. Three others have been kidnapped, tortured and released for a ransom.

"Kenney should have his department look at ways of immediately speeding up visas," noted the Toronto Star editorial board.

"Leaving (Zobaidi and others) who helped us at risk to their own safety in administrative limbo is irresponsible. We owe them our soldiers' lives."

(CP Photo)