Ottawa

'We put our lives at risk': Afghan interpreters push for family resettlement

A group of former interpreters who assisted the Canadian Armed Forces in Afghanistan have started a hunger strike on Parliament Hill, demanding the federal government move faster to resettle their family members in Canada.

After helping Canadian troops, interpreters strike on Parliament Hill fearing safety of families

About 60 former interpreters who assisted the Canadian Armed Forces in Afghanistan started a hunger strike on Parliament Hill on Wednesday. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

A group of about 60 former interpreters who assisted the Canadian Armed Forces in Afghanistan have started a hunger strike on Parliament Hill, demanding the federal government move faster to resettle their family members in Canada.

The Taliban has been taking over Afghanistan, putting those who assisted Canada, the United States and other allied countries during the war, along with their families, at risk of reprisals.

The federal government has said it hopes to resettle all Afghans who helped with Canada's 13-year military mission in Afghanistan, but many extended family members are not yet eligible for the resettlement program — even though they face the threat of violence as the Taliban seizes control over parts of the country.

Zamarai Nikzad 

"My family got a warning from the Taliban. They sent them a letter so my parents left their home and fled. We put our lives at risk, but now my family is at the same risk."

Ahmad Sayed, helped organize Wednesday's rally 

"I'm proud that I worked with our heroes. We do appreciate the Canadian Forces in our country, they tried to bring peace. Now it is a matter of IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada). This hunger strike will continue because the government will not listen to us."

Vesal Naser 

Naser was 18 when he started assisting Canadian Armed Forces personnel in Afghanistan.

"I miss my mom, I haven't seen her in 10 years. I miss my family ... I need my family. When I moved to Canada we gave them (Canadian officials) a list of our family. They have it and I have it in my pocket and every day I see it. I'm asking the government to bring our extended family, and not just make promises."

Saeed Shah

Shah is asking the federal government to use Afghanistan's neighbouring countries to house his and other interpreter's families, until they can be processed by Canadian officials.

"It doesn't matter if it takes months, but we can't have them wait in Afghanistan because we don't know if they're going to die or be targeted. Working with the Canadian Armed Forces cost me losing five members of my family. And now I'm thinking I will lose more."

Shahwali Shahin

Shahin says he has an obligation to get his family out of Afghanistan. 

"Even if they [family] don't blame us directly, I feel that guilt. I cannot go to sleep at night. I cannot focus at work. Every day I'm thinking about my brothers and sisters."

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