‘We are lucky’: First group of Afghan refugees touch down in Vancouver to start new lives
September 11, 2021
“We are the lucky ones,” said Mohammad, a former worker at the Canadian embassy in Kabul. He spoke on the condition Postmedia News not use his family’s real names, fearing reprisal.
Although the refugees have been set up with social insurance numbers, vaccinations and bank accounts, a majority of them still cannot speak English. Mohammad is the only member of his family who is fluent.
The next group of 35 are expected to arrive in Toronto this week, Friesen said. Some will end up in B.C. as Mohammad and his son did. From there, more refugees are expected to land in Canada every few days this month.
Immigrant Services is working day and night to prepare dozens more accommodations since the federal government made a promise to resettle 20,000 Afghans fleeing Taliban rule by 2024.
Mohammad boarded one of the first Turkish Airlines charter flights out of Kabul airport on Aug. 8 along with his wife, son and two other children. Seven days later, the capital city he once called home fell to the Taliban.
Because of how quickly the situation evolved, not all those who arrived in Canada landed as permanent residents. Friesen led staff to file the immigration papers for them while they were in pandemic quarantine.
For Mohammad, his family’s request for residency was processed in just two days. What has taken a lot longer for many Afghan refugees like him, though, is for the shellshock of war to wear off.