Canadian Fast-track Terp Immigration Progam to be Extended?

I’ve shared my concerns with the program to fast-track the immigration of Afghan interpreters who helped Canadians into Canada.

It appears common sense is prevailing – this, from the Canadian Press:

Ottawa may extend its fast-track immigration policy for Afghan translators who help the Canadian Armed Forces and aid workers in Kandahar if troops remain in Afghanistan beyond 2011.  Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said Friday it would make sense to continue the program for as long as such translators work with Canadians.  “The basic principle is any Afghan whose life is at risk because they’ve assisted Canadian Forces or aid workers we’re going to give them fair consideration for expedited immigration to Canada,” Kenney said Friday.  “If there is some kind of extension of a non-combat mission, I’m sure we’ll extend the same principle in the future …. We’re on track to receive between 150 and 200 by the time the program is over.” ….

According to the Canadian Press, about 250 applications have come in so far.  There have apparently been delays in processing because some of the groups who provide input into the process have pulled out of Kandahar or Afghanistan because of security concerns.

Let’s hope common sense DOES prevail.

Earlier rants on this one:

 

 

Weasel Wording = Dooming Afghan Interpreters

You know how I’ve felt about Canada’s proposed plan to fast track the immigration process for interpreters who’s helped Canada in Afghanistan:

Canada Slamming Door on Afghan Help Post-2011?

AFG ‘Terps Split on Canada’s Offer of Fast Track Immigration

Getting Terps into Canada Faster

Well, this quote from the Immigration Minister’s office to the Canadian Press, if it’s been shared correctly, shows an interesting  nuance in the rules being applied – highlights mine:

“The applicant must demonstrate that: the threat is directly related to the individual’s support of the Canadian mission in Kandahar, or directly related to an immediate family member’s support of the Canadian mission in Kandahar; and the threat is greater than the level of risk faced by the many others working for the Canadian government in Kandahar province in general.”

Really?  I’ve been searching through the media material Canada shared with reporters in mid-September of last year (material also available here at Scribd.com if links don’t work) :

…but I haven’t found the phrase used in the  CP story.

Wow.

Just.

Fucking.

Wow.

All I can say is that I have to agree with this column headline from today’s Ottawa Citizen:

We’re dooming our Afghan helpers

Way to help those who helped us, Canada.

Helloooooo? Anything Happening with AFG ‘Terps Getting Here Faster?

Remember the plan to make it easier for Afghan interpreters helping Canadian troops to get to Canada?

First, we hear there’s more process than first expected.

Now, we hear this from a Canadian officer, with the quote buried in a story about interpreters in general:

…. “There’s been a gradual rise of local nationals who work for ISAF who have been murdered,” said Canadian Army Capt. Terry Maccormac, who, as a mentor to the Afghan army, works closely with Afghan interpreters and the 1-12 on Forward Operating Base Wilson.

An Afghan interpreter working for Canadian military mentor teams in Kandahar was murdered by the Taliban in January, according to Canwest news service. He was the first known interpreter working with Canadian forces to be killed by the Taliban, although other translators have died in roadside bomb attacks. Maccormac said the Canadian government issued a classified report this winter warning that the Taliban has begun targeting Afghans working with ISAF.

“It’s common knowledge that any of the local nationals who work for ISAF could be killed,” he said. “And these guys [interpreters] all know it as well, and that’s why their names are kept very secure.” ….

Anyone speeding things up a bit more?  Anyone?

More on this:

Canada Slamming Door on Afghan Help Post-2011?

AFG ‘Terps Split on Canada’s Offer of Fast Track Immigration

Getting Terps into Canada Faster

Getting Terps into Canada Faster

Let’s see what’s happened on this so far.

30 Apr 09:  We hear from the Canadian Press that “Canada is set to open its doors to hundreds of Afghans who face life-threatening risks after having worked with our military and diplomats …. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says he’s putting the final touches on a policy to provide safe haven to Afghans endangered by their association with Canada.

15 Sept 09: Canada commits to helping those who helped “Canadians in Afghanistan by making it easier to immigrate to Canada.

15 Sept 09: I express some skepticism about the cut-off for the program.  Given Canada’s intent to get the @#$% out of Kandahar and Afghanistan, I can understand the deadline.

8 Dec 09: We hear of someone who was working as an interpreter for Canadian forces in Afghanistan who may have been gunned down by the Taliban in a Kandahar shop.

18 Dec 09: We hear of someone who helped Canadian troops who could use the immigration fast tracking.  I ask the same question as the article:  “Will Ottawa help man who saved Canadian’s life?”

29 Dec 09: Toronto Star editorial raises a good point:  “We owe our Afghan partners more than a faint hope.”

24 Jan 10: We hear from the Canadian Press that:

  • Potential candidates were briefed on the program around October of last year.  (Ok, that seems to be on track.)
  • A committee that is supposed to assess cases for fast-track immigration hasn’t been set up yet – this part has been reportedly ” “negatively impacted” by the security situation in Kandahar”. (They didn’t know it was a bit…. unsettled in Kandahar at the time?)
  • The application?  A “three-page referral form, which comes with an eight-page set of instructions, all in English.” (Which is more important in a local language, this kind of application or a news release highlighting a Canadian prison official’s visit, like this in Dari or this in Pashto?)

The original news release said “The government plans to implement these measures in October 2009″.  Does that mean “we’re setting up the system in October 2009” or “the system will be up and running by October 2009”?  It appears to be the former, not the latter.

Cold comfort for those whose lives are at risk waiting for “plans to implement these measures.”

Is this the fault of officials taking too long?  Perhaps.  Is this the fault of a Minister (and Government) wanting to make it look like something was being done when it really wasn’t yet?  Perhaps.  Is it something else we don’t know about?  Perhaps.

I hope the next update I share is one with some REAL good news.

UPDATE (1): BruceR over at Flit shares his theories about what might be wrong with the fast-tracking program.

AFG ‘Terps Split on Canada’s Offer of Fast Track Immigration

I’ve already shared my main reservations with Canada’s plan to fast-track immigration applications from Afghans in danger or seriously injured as a result of helping Canadians in Afghanistan.

CanWest’s Bruce Ward spoke to a couple of interpreters, and it’s interesting to see the “I can stay and help me and my country” view:

“I speak English and I know computers. Not many in my country have these skills,” said Hassan, who is in his mid-20s. “In Canada and in America, everybody knows English and computers. It would be much harder there for me to get a good job that pays well.”

versus the “what’s best for my family’s future?” from 20-year-old Abdul:

“I would like to go to Canada for my children,” he said. “I don’t want this life for them …. Things are changing, but that attitude is still not uncommon. I would like a better chance for my kids, so I want to know about everything the Canadian government is offering. But for now, in my heart, I think I will go.”

Interesting fodder for the marketers of this program.

Canada Slamming Door on Afghan Help Post-2011?

Notwithstanding the confusion regarding what Canada’s doing to be doing in Afghanistan I’ve commented on before, I have decidedly mixed feelings about a new initiative.

Canada announced today that it will make it a bit easier for Afghans who are in danger because they helped Canadians to immigrate to Canada. I’m all for helping those who helped us out.  Complicated?  Perhaps.  Will it drain those who are needed to help rebuild the country in the future?  I don’t think so.  A moral duty to those who helped us?  Yes.

The one phrase that causes me to pause, though, is this one from the news release:

“The program will conclude in 2011 to correspond with the scheduled end of Canada’s combat mission in Kandahar.”

and from the associated backgrounder,

“Applicants may apply under this program until the end of the Canadian combat mission in Kandahar in 2011.

This terminology is further reinforced by the latest quarterly report on Canada’s mission in Afghanistan (PDF):

“Under the House of Commons motion of March 13, 2008, the Canadian military presence in Kandahar is to end in 2011.”

Such wording leaves the door open, if only the tiniest crack, to the potential for a non-combat military presence of Canadian troops, perhaps even outside Kandahar.

If Canada’s decision makers have even the slightest inkling of keeping even the most token number of Canadian troops, even a token number, in Afghanistan, they should plan on getting ZERO Afghan translator, security or “fixer” support after 2011 if they’ll be left to twist in the wind, unlike those getting in before the deadline.