The status of 2,900 applications from Afghans vetted by the Department of National Defence (DND) remains a mystery, one month after senior DND officials testified that only 900 of 3,800 vetted applications had been approved by the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) department.
“They cannot find them. They do not know where they are. And people’s lives are hanging in the balance because those applications are not being processed.”
“I don’t have any reason to believe any files are lost,” Immigration Minister Sean Fraser told a parliamentary committee on May 12.
His office reiterated to Global News on Wednesday that the files aren’t lost, but he declined an interview request and wouldn’t provide any information about where they might be.
Four weeks since DND’s testimony, neither Fraser’s office, nor the IRCC could answer Global News’ questions about how many of those 3,800 vetted applicants have actually arrived in Canada.
“We anticipate additional invitations to apply (to the Special Immigration Program) will be issued in the coming weeks by IRCC to individuals who have been identified by GAC and DND as having had a significant and/or enduring relationship with the Government of Canada,” spokesperson Aidan Strickland told Global News, without providing specifics.
The responsibility to process and keep track of refugee applications lies with IRCC, however, Global News approached DND for answers as well. Its officials have so far provided the only window into the status of this special class of Afghans, “with an enduring relationship with the Canadian Armed Forces,” as Chief of the Defense Staff General Wayne Eyre identified them in his May 9 testimony.
“They’re not lost,” DND spokesperson Jessica Lamirande told Global News about the 2,900 outstanding files, explaining DND keeps copies of files forwarded to IRCC.
DND has been helping IRCC by “cross-referencing names against existing personnel files of Afghans who provided services to the CAF” and, where no records were available, taking a close look at provided documents and contacting military members listed as references.
But the status of the outstanding 2,900 applications remains unclear.
Global News has reviewed documentation and credentials for one of the people stuck in Afghanistan since the fall of Kabul in August. The man is too afraid for his life to share his name, but provided a statement about his situation.
“We are practically the living dead,” he wrote.
He says he’s fighting two battles, one against the Taliban, the other with IRCC.
“(The) government altogether doesn’t give a damn about us being left here to die and live in desperation, while always thinking what may happen, how and where it may happen, and constantly checking our 360 (degree) surroundings, looking at every rifle holder with suspicion as if he can see through me, grasp my past with a blink and…unleash his inner beast on me.”
He says he’s lost the sense of a normal life, not leaving his house for three months, and not letting his children go to school, fearing the worst.
Global News reviewed Afghanistan-based contracts he had with the Canadian government, as well as documentation where he outlines his various positions including work as an interpreter.
An email from the Defence Minister’s office dated Nov. 3 notes the individual’s “information was confirmed by DND and sent to IRCC.”
“There are no issues of security left here. All that is left to do is for the Canadian government to make good on their promise, and that is to bring these individuals and their families here to Canada safely,” said Kwan.
“Canada’s commitment to providing protection to at least 40,000 vulnerable Afghans has not waivered,” Fraser spokesperson Aidan Strickland told Global News.
Yet of those 40,000 refugees, only 14,645 have arrived in Canada as of June 1, according to the latest information from IRCC.
Ten months after the fall of Kabul, that’s fewer than 40 per cent of the number promised.