First Afghan Refugees Begin Settlement in Canada Amid Wave 4 of COVID

Shortly after the fall of the Afghan government to the Taliban in August, the Canadian government announced it would initially welcome 40,000 refugees.

The resettlement comes at a time of upheaval in Afghanistan and at the height of the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada. The first group of refugees who arrived in Canadian territory was immediately quarantined for 14 days in a hotel in Toronto and received an injection of the COVID-19 vaccine. They are now resettled in various parts of Canada.

Chris Friesen is COO at the Immigrant Services Society of British Columbia, a government-funded agency. Friesen, who has been helping immigrants and refugees in Canada for 30 years, said helping Afghan refugees was unique.

Chris Friesen.

Chris Friesen.

“What separates the Afghan movement from other movements is the fact that Canadians, particularly in the armed forces, have spent many years in Afghanistan,” he said. “There is a personal relationship with Afghans and Afghans,” he continued. Friesen said the vast majority of Afghan refugees leaving immediately and with hardly any possessions pose a unique set of challenges to these resettlement efforts. None of the preparatory documents had been completed before they arrived in Canada, he said.

During quarantine in Toronto, the refugees were also given a laptop or tablet computer. This allows Canadian immigration officials to offer them English lessons and distance programs for children to access education.

Among the refugees is Abdul who now lives with his family in Vancouver. He did not give his full name to protect his relatives who are still in Afghanistan.

Abdul has a brother in the US who wants to go to Canada because of his previous relationship with a Canadian citizen.

He spent more than 45 years living in Afghanistan, and worked as a journalist based in Kabul. Working for Afghan and American news media for more than 20 years, he sees the risk of his job given how the Taliban treat journalists.

A Canadian permanent resident from Afghanistan reunites with his three-year-old son at Toronto airport, Ontario, Canada, September 13, 2021.

A Canadian permanent resident from Afghanistan reunites with his three-year-old son at Toronto airport, Ontario, Canada, September 13, 2021.

“I thought my life was in danger. It’s not just my life, my family too,” he told Mouab. “That’s why I tried my best to leave because I was under direct threat, even when the government, the previous government was still in power, I felt threatened.”

Abdul arrived in Canada with his wife and children. He hopes to one day help his mother immigrate. Abdul said he and his wife would take English courses and other classes and would work towards becoming Canadian citizens.

“My family is safe here. This is an important thing for me, that the future of my children is quite certain,” he continued. “They will go to school, God willing, in the near future and they will enter college.” [uh/ab]

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