March 30, 2023

A prominent Afghan women’s rights activist desperate for refuge has been barred from entering Canada, despite a government program designed to resettle vulnerable Afghans like her.

Farzana Adell Ghadiya, a Hazara minority persecuted by the Taliban, recently received a form letter from the Canadian Immigration Service refusing an application for a temporary residence visa, which she needed to enter the country for asylum.

To be eligible for a visa, applicants must prove their ties – such as a job, home, financial assets, or family – that will take them back to their home country and leave Canada at the end of the visit.

Adell Ghadiya is in exile in a third country; she has asked the Star not to publish her whereabouts to protect her from repatriation. As she does not dare to return to Afghanistan, she explained her circumstances in the application and stated in advance the purpose of her visit: to seek protection in Canada upon arrival.

“It’s shocking that the Immigration Department didn’t even take the time to read her affidavit and submissions, which set out the threats to her life and the obstacles Farzana and many Afghans face in getting to Canada,” explains Matthew Behrens of the Ottawa-based Rural Refugee Rights Network that helps women.

“It is a fundamental violation of justice to judge an application as something it is not. It shows how little value the lives of Afghan women have to the Canadian government.”

Adell Ghadiya was the chief of staff of the UN Commission on the Status of Women for the Afghan government overthrown by the Taliban last year. She now finds herself in limbo in a country whose government, lawyers say, is rounding up Afghan refugees and returning them to the embrace of the Taliban.

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Last year, Ottawa set a target of bringing in 40,000 Afghans through a special immigration program for those working for the Canadian government in Afghanistan and a humanitarian program for women’s rights activists, human rights defenders, journalists and at-risk minorities.

Adell Ghadiya’s supporters initially tried to get her here through the humanitarian program. However, to be eligible, an applicant must first register with the United Nations Refugee Agency or the government of the country where they now reside.

In the country where she is hiding, the UN agency stopped registering refugees a few years ago and the host government is friendly to the Taliban and is hesitant to issue Afghans refugee certificates.

So her lawyers helped her apply for temporary residency in Canada in early April, explicitly to seek refuge on arrival in the country. In the rejection letter, immigration officials noted that the purpose of her visit to Canada is inconsistent with a temporary stay based on the circumstances she specified in the application.

“Your proposed length of stay in Canada is inconsistent with a temporary stay,” said the two-page rejection form, adding that she could reapply if she can allay those concerns and demonstrate that “your situation meets the requirements.” satisfies”.

Adell Ghadiya said she was shocked by the denial, which she likens to murder given the Taliban’s treatment of women’s rights lawyers who served under the fallen government of US-backed President Ashraf Ghani.

“This is not in line with the human values ​​previously announced by Canada to accommodate Afghan women, and leaves me with disappointment. The current situation in Afghanistan is plain and clear for the world to see,” said Adell Ghadiya, who can be removed from the country where she is now when her visa expires there.

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“I appeal to the Secretary of Immigration, Mr Sean Fraser: You have the authority to sign a permit allowing me to enter Canada. Why won’t you use that power to save my life?”

Sharen Craig, who is part of a women’s rights network in Ottawa helping Adell Ghadiya, said she was stunned by the government’s refusal to let her boyfriend go to Canada when she saw a news report of an Afghan rescue dog named Alex being reunited with his owner, an interpreter. from Kabul, now in the country.

‘What does it take to get Farzana here? Does she have to dress up as Scooby-Doo to be accepted? We’ve talked to so many MPs, there’s been so much focus on her case,” said Craig, whose group has raised funds to support a settlement plan for the Afghan woman.

“All we get is a wall of rejection. I wake up every night in fear of my dear friend, who I really feel has become like a daughter to me.”

In the meantime, Fraser tweeted on Wednesday about another charter flight carrying 300 Afghan refugees landing in Toronto from Tajikistan, raising the total number to more than 20,350 since special Afghan resettlement programs kicked off a year ago.

Nicholas Keung is a Toronto-based immigration reporter for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @nkeung


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