Family hopes to come to Sask. after fleeing Afghanistan, then Ukraine

·3 min read
Mohammad and Zahra Hussain have applied to bring their family to Saskatchewan as refugees after fleeing conflict first in their native Afghanistan, and then again in Ukraine. Their eldest daughter, Tahera, is a University of Regina student. (Supplied by Tahera Hussain - image credit)
Mohammad and Zahra Hussain have applied to bring their family to Saskatchewan as refugees after fleeing conflict first in their native Afghanistan, and then again in Ukraine. Their eldest daughter, Tahera, is a University of Regina student. (Supplied by Tahera Hussain - image credit)

A Saskatchewan woman is trying to bring her family to Canada after they were forced to flee two war zones — first from Afghanistan and then Ukraine.

"It's been really stressful, especially for me. I'm the oldest daughter," University of Regina political science student Tahera Hussain said in an interview with CBC this week. "I feel responsible to help them in any way I can."

Hussain came to Canada several years ago for her education. She's also working two jobs to support herself and her family abroad.

When the Western powers withdrew from Afghanistan last year, Hussain's parents knew life would become even more difficult in Kabul for their four daughters who remained there. They fled to Turkey and were settled temporarily in the first country that would give them temporary visas. That was Ukraine.

Hussain said she was relieved to hear they made it out of Afghanistan, but that relief didn't last long.

Russia invaded Ukraine earlier this year, forcing the family to again flee their accommodations in the Ukrainian capital city of Kyiv. They now sit in Slovakia awaiting word from Canada on their refugee application.

Matt Duguid/CBC
Matt Duguid/CBC

Hussain said she's filled in every application and contacted every government official she can, hoping Canada will accept her family soon.

"Nobody expected this to happen, especially after they left Afghanistan. We never thought they'd have to go to Ukraine, to another war," she said.

No one from Citizenship and Immigration Canada was available for an interview yesterday, but a government web page says Canada has settled more than 13,000 Afghan refugees, with an eventual goal of 40,000. There is no timeline listed, but it says it will be done as quickly and as safely as possible.

Saskatoon immigration lawyer Chris Veeman said he can't imagine the trauma this family has experienced.

"I think people were really happy to get out of Afghanistan and go basically anywhere, but obviously the situation in Ukraine is not good. I feel for them. It must be very stressful."

Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images
Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

Veeman hopes Canadians, especially those in power, won't forget about the urgent situation in Afghanistan. He said Canada could allow Afghans like the Hussain family to come on a temporary visa as their claims are evaluated, just as it is doing for Ukrainians at the moment.

"As the situation in Ukraine rose in prominence, the focus has shifted away from Afghanistan. But people there are still in desperate need. Can we do both? I think so. It's hard to see why we can't treat them in the same way," Veeman said.

Khwaja Tawfiq Sediqi/The Associated Press
Khwaja Tawfiq Sediqi/The Associated Press

Hussain said the situation is urgent. Her family's visas in Slovakia expire in a few weeks. If Canada hasn't accepted them by then, it's unclear where they'll end up.

"I am hopeful. I have faith in our system in Canada, but they don't have a lot of time," she said.

"I just want them here with me."

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