In one of the latest disappointments in Canada’s efforts to help Afghan refugees, a prominent Afghan women’s activist’s application for a temporary residence permit has been denied, apparently due to a bureaucratic error.
Bessa Whitmore and Sharen Craig spent seven months trying to bring Farzana Adell Ghadiya to safety in Ottawa.
As sponsors, they agreed to open their home to Ghadiyi and ensure her safety once she managed to get to Canada.
Ghadiya has been fighting for women’s rights in Afghanistan for more than a decade, establishing schools and working with the United Nations. She is also Hazara, an ethnic minority targeted by the Taliban.
Ghadiya was forced to flee Afghanistan after the Taliban seized power in August 2021 and was in a third country waiting to be accepted by Canada.
But in a bureaucratic quandary, her application for a temporary residence permit was treated as a visa application and rejected.
“It was really disappointing for me, but I have a lot of support from Canadians,” Ghadiya told CTV National News.
Its patrons say the rejection is due to negligence on the part of the government.
“Someone didn’t read the application or it was checked by a machine,” Whitmore said. “I suspect someone just didn’t look closely at her because she was rejected for something she didn’t apply for.”
Women and women’s rights activists from Afghanistan have been singled out by Canada as a refugee group vulnerable to Taliban retaliation. But now Ghadiya is back at square one in her quest to escape to Canada.
“They care about her, she’s loved and she’s in need and she’s all alone,” Craig told CTV News.
Canada has yet to fulfill its commitment to resettle 40,000 Afghan refugees. Ghadiya’s rejection stings even more because her sponsors see the other group being treated differently.
Since the fall of Kabul in August 2021, Canada has accepted more than 21,000 Afghan refugees in 14 months.
But almost 100,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Canada since January 2022, most of them fleeing war — more than four times the number of Afghan refugees in a shorter period.
Jenny Kwan, the NDP MP for East Vancouver, told CTV National News that many “see this practice as discriminatory.”
“The truth is this: the government is not offering the same or similar immigration measures for Afghans and they are being left behind.”
Immigration officials say Ghadiya can reapply.
They also say they will introduce a new program to help more Afghans by removing the requirement to obtain status with the United Nations refugee agency – starting on October 17.