Toronto

'He needs their love': Boy, 10, escaped Afghanistan but still separated from parents months later

He escaped Kabul and is now settling into life in Toronto. But 10-year-old Hadis Afghanfar remains separated from his parents and siblings. Despite efforts by relatives here to bring his family to Canada, their application hasn't been processed months later.

Hadis Afghanfar living in Toronto with grandparents while parents stuck in Pakistan

From left to right: Hanzala Afghanfar, Mohammad Aimal, Hadis Afghanfar, Mohammad Anas Afghanfar, and Rokhsar Afghanfar. They're pictured here in Kabul on Jan. 1, 2021, during a birthday celebration for Mohammad. Hadis, 10, was separated from his parents eight months ago during their attempt to escape Afghanistan. (Submitted by Mohad Asef Faqiri)

The last time young Hadis Afghanfar saw his parents, they were wading through the crowds at Kabul International Airport last August, desperately trying not to get trampled in their quest to flee Afghanistan as the Taliban took over.

Hadis, who is now 10, his parents, two young brothers, grandparents and aunt were among thousands trying to board flights. His step-grandfather, Mohad Asef Faqiri, says they spent two nights sitting on floors covered in litter and urine with the sound of gunfire all around them.

The boy's mother, who was nine months pregnant, finally had to leave the airport with her husband and other children, fearing for their safety. Hadis and the others made it out and he now lives in Toronto with his grandparents.

"I love my parents so much, I want them to be here," Hadis told CBC News. 

Hadis's parents have been working with immigration consultant Kimia Moshiri since October to get the rest of the family to Canada. They were able to cross the border into Pakistan in January but since then, they've been waiting for temporary resident visas from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). 

WATCH | Video shows chaos at Kabul airport in August as thousands attempted to flee: 

Afghans chase U.S. air force plane in desperate attempt to escape country

1 year ago
Duration 0:39
Thousands of people are trying to flee Afghanistan as the Taliban strengthens its grip on the country. Some people chased a U.S. air force plane down the tarmac, while others tried to force their way onto planes at the Kabul airport.

Moshiri says they've already completed the mandatory paperwork, and gotten mandatory fingerprint ID and retinal scans but they were told by IRCC that their application had been placed on hold.

"No matter how many times we follow up with IRCC or call, we're just getting automated replies," she said. 

"There's really no one to hold accountable for this case."

11,500 Afghan refugees now in Canada

Hadis's loved ones aren't the only refugees stuck in limbo. One of IRCC's policies since the Taliban took over was to prioritize those visa applications for Afghans that have immediate family in Canada. But since August of last year, just 11,500 Afghans have arrived in Canada — far fewer than the 40,300 the federal government made a commitment to resettle.

Moshiri says she was told by IRCC that the application would be fast-tracked, considering Hadis is a minor. That hasn't happened. 

"It usually takes a few months," she said. "I'm not sure what else we can do." 

Hadis's family celebrates his birthday on April 12, 2020, in Kabul. (Submitted by Mohad Asef Faqiri)

In an email statement, IRCC wouldn't give any specifics about Hadis's family, but said its commitment to providing protection to at least 40,300 Afghans "has not wavered."

"The timelines for arrival are based on the individual's or families' current location and whether we can process their applications accordingly," the statement reads.

"If we can move people quickly, we will, while making sure that as people arrive in Canada, they have access to a safe place and that they're landing in communities that have the capacity to help them integrate successfully."

Moshiri says they have even reached out to MPP Doly Begum and MP Bill Blair in the riding of Scarborough Southwest, where Hadis and his grandparents live. She says they were promised letters of support from both but haven't yet received any.

In a statement to CBC Toronto, Begum's office said it is "undertaking the necessary due diligence" before sending a letter to the family's legal representative.

"Our caseworker is making sure that they receive the letter as soon as possible," said Mayeesha Chowdhury, a spokesperson for Begum. 

Hadis, left, celebrating his father's birthday in April, 2021 in Kabul. (Submitted by Mohad Asef Faqiri)

Meanwhile, Blair's office says it is "working with the family's representatives on next steps in their case."

"This is an extremely difficult time for the family and we are committed to doing all that we can to support them," reads an email statement from his office. 

'He's feeling very lonely'

Since their escape, Hadis has enrolled in school and made friends, Faqiri says, but he constantly misses his parents.

In the meantime, Faqiri is worried that the scarce funds Hadis's parents escaped with will run out, especially now that they have an eight-month-old baby to feed. 

"They have nothing to eat over there," he said. 

Hadis, left, and his family attend a birthday celebration for his youngest brother, Hanzala, centre, in Kabul on Feb. 2, 2020. (Submitted by Mohad Asef Faqiri)

Faqiri's worries also grow for Hadis, who has yet to meet his baby brother.

"He's feeling very lonely. He's kind of stressed and depressed — he has a lot of concern about the family," Faqiri said.

"He needs his parents; he needs their love." 

With files from Laura Pedersen and Farrah Merali

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