Afghan asylum seekers and an aid agency trying to get them to Canada are warning the federal government of a new TBEN looming in Pakistan for undocumented migrants.
Pakistan threatens to jail people for up to three years if they don’t renew their visas by the end of 2022. The process will cost applicants hundreds of dollars each, leaving families fleeing Afghanistan and the Taliban with little or no money at a serious disadvantage.
A video ad produced by Pakistan’s interior ministry has been streaming on government social media channels and on television since early October. It warns that “foreigners who stay too long after December 31 could be sentenced to three years in prison”.
“The message from the Pakistani government that Afghans illegally in Pakistan will be deported and possibly arrested is deeply disturbing,” said Brian Macdonald, executive director of Aman Lara, a nonprofit organization of Canadian veterans and interpreters that have worked. for more than a year to bring Afghan refugees to Canada.
Although the only foreign countries mentioned in the advertisement are India and Somalia, the advertisement is presented in three different languages: Urdu (the national language of Pakistan) and Dari and Pashto, often spoken by Afghans.
“They are targeting us directly,” said Mohammad Younas Nasimi, an Afghan asylum seeker. He lives with his wife and six children in a hotel room in Islamabad while he waits to see if he is eligible for a special immigration program from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
The program is designed to accelerate the immigration of former military interpreters and other former employees of the Canadian government and armed forces, along with their families.
As an indentured servant, Nasimi helped Canadian troops in Afghanistan track down bombs and landmines laid by the Taliban.
Nasimi said he has been waiting for a response from the IRCC for a year.
He said he feared his family’s status in Pakistan would become more uncertain. A few weeks after he first saw the ad on television, he said, his two-year-old son was beaten up in their hotel.
“I’m still not sure who the man was [that did this to him]Nasimi said, adding that his son suffered a head injury.
“His nose was badly damaged and he was bleeding.”
He said he had sent a note to the Canadian High Commission in Pakistan, but all he got was a reply stating that his immigration file was still pending.
Pakistan says Afghans with valid papers will be ‘facilitated’
In a media statement, the Pakistan High Commission in Canada said it remains committed “to facilitate the travel from Pakistan of all those Afghans whose cases have been identified by the sponsoring countries/governments through their missions in Pakistan.”
It also said the video ad applies to all foreigners who stay too long, not just Afghans.
“[Afghans] having valid travel documents and visas/documents for onward travel from Pakistan has been and will be facilitated by the Government of Pakistan,” the statement said.
TBEN News has spoken to an asylum seeker whose paperless status has put him in the crosshairs of the police.
TBEN News has agreed not to identify him because of the dangers he faces in Islamabad and the dangers he would face after his deportation to Afghanistan. He said he has been waiting for 11 months to find out if he is eligible to move to Canada.
He said his father worked as a carpenter in the Canadian Forces and that he volunteered with Aman Lara before fleeing Afghanistan in 2021 after falling into the Taliban.
He, his parents and nine siblings were only able to pay the visa fee once after moving to Islamabad from Afghanistan, he said. His relatives have since been waiting to find out if they also qualify for Canada’s immigration program.
In mid-October, they received a letter from their pension urging them to renew their visa. “Dear Guest, We are dealing with issues from Pakistani law enforcement agencies,” reads the note, signed by a CEO of Capetown Guest House.
Since then, the Canadian High Commission and the United Nations International Organization for Migration have helped him and his family move to another guest house. The family is still waiting for their immigration papers to be approved by the Canadian government.
‘Constructive dialogue’ with Pakistan continues, Ottawa . says
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and Global Affairs Canada said in media statements that they continue to maintain strong relations with the Pakistani government.
The IRCC said it has an “active and constructive dialogue” with Islamabad on “issues related to safe passage for vulnerable Afghans”.
It sidestepped a question about concerns related to the video ad, but said that “each country retains the power to set its own entry and exit requirements.”
Global Affairs said it appreciates “Pakistan’s efforts to support Canada’s Afghan resettlement program”.
About 18 charter flights According to the IRCC, Afghans from Pakistan have come to Canada since January 2022.
Citing security concerns, however, neither department would say how many Afghans are still in Pakistan waiting for permission to come to Canada.
Aman Lara said it is in contact with about 400 Afghans in the same situation.
According to a Pakistani government directive, from June to August of this year, the Pakistani government granted safe passage to Afghans who did not have valid travel documentation “via land air routes … on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with the receiving third countries.”
Aman Lara said he hoped authorities in Islamabad would return to that policy.
“We encourage the government of Pakistan to reopen that window,” Macdonald said.
But according to a Canadian government official with knowledge of the situation, Pakistan has told Canada and other countries with immigration measures for Afghans — such as the United Kingdom, the United States and Germany — that it cannot maintain loose borders forever because of their immigration programs.
The source spoke to TBEN News on the condition that they not be named, as they were not authorized to comment publicly.
The source also said that, more than a year after the Taliban takeover, Islamabad no longer considers the Afghan refugee situation an emergency.
The source said Pakistan regularly campaigns on social media about border rules.