Canada evacuated 3,700 Afghans threatened by the Taliban over the past few weeks. The country originally committed to evacuating 20,000 people, but ended those efforts Thursday.
According to Anila Lee Yuen from the Centre of Newcomers, the majority of those 3,700 refugees are currently in Eastern Canada.
“So predominantly the people that came out, they were sent to Toronto and then asked whether they have any family or friends,” said Lee Yuen.
Lee Yuen says a majority will be staying in Toronto, but Calgary is preparing for hundreds, if not thousands.
“So right now we’re just, you know, where we’re planning for thousands. If we get a couple of hundred, then that’s OK too only in the sense that we (already) have a lot of need in Calgary,” said Lee Yuen.
Some refugees have already arrived, Hyder Hassan with Immigrant Services Calgary told Global News.
“We got indications that there are some refugees that may have arrived this week. For privacy and security reasons we can’t disclose the amount. At this point, but we will be helping out a few refugees next week,” said Hassan.
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Lee Yuen says many of the folks arriving from Afghanistan will need support, especially after leaving such a traumatic environment.
“A lot of shellshock, of course, a lot of trauma, a lot of fear for family members, loved ones, relatives, friends that are left behind a lot of sadness, we’re all feeling for the devastation of the country,” she said.
She’s also thinking of those who were left behind.
“It’s very devastating and to see that we weren’t able to get the number of people that we wanted to get out is actually quite terrifying especially with the vulnerable populations.”
One of the many left behind, a language assistant who worked in Afghanistan alongside veterans Mike and Daphne ter Kuile.
The language assistant referred to as “John”, given an alias for fear of retaliation, has been in touch with the ter Kuiles following their efforts to have him evacuated.
“He’s worried about getting killed, stepping out of his door. He’s got to hide and hide again and move to a new place if there’s somebody who knows him, he’s got to go someplace where nobody knows who he is,” Capt. (Ret.) Mike ter Kuile said.
The ter Kuiles believe the Canadian government failed in its efforts to evacuate as many people as possible from Afghanistan.
“They should have had the opportunity to make this kind of a choice to come here, way before this happened, or no, this was a mass panic when we all knew, Afghanistan, we’re not going to go on forever.”
They remain in touch with John, hoping they may get to see him again.
For the refugees who did arrive in Canada, agencies have begun gathering supplies and setting systems to ensure a smooth transition.
“Our commitment right now… is that we must refer the clients of the right service to the right agency every time, which means that none of the refugees fall through the cracks,” said Hassan.
They’re asking donations of gently used furniture and clothing for all ages and genders to be sent to the Women in Need Society. Culturally comforting non-perishable food can also be donated to the Immigrant Education Society.
“This is something that you know you can never be too prepared for,” said Hassan.
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