Toronto

Toronto man feels 'abandoned' by Canadian government as he tries to escape Afghanistan

A Toronto man says he feels “abandoned” by Global Affairs Canada as he tries to escape Afghanistan after members of the Taliban showed up to his family home in Kabul.

Man hiding from Taliban, sleeping in Kabul airport as he pleads for help from home

Afghans crowd onto the tarmac of the Kabul airport on Aug. 16, 2021, to flee the country as the Taliban takes control of Afghanistan. (AFP/Getty Images)

A Toronto man says he feels "abandoned" by Global Affairs Canada as he attempts to escape Afghanistan after members of the Taliban showed up to his family home in Kabul. 

CBC News has agreed not to reveal the identity of the man, who is self-employed in Canada, over concerns for his safety. 

The Canadian citizen said he travelled to Europe with his wife and four children, but his trip was cut short when he had to return to Kabul on Aug. 3 to be with his sick mother. His wife and children are still in Europe.

"I'm at risk, great risk. Every moment something may happen," he told CBC News Tuesday during a WhatsApp call.

This past Sunday, he heard Taliban fighters were entering Kabul. He said he rushed to the airport. But he couldn't get a flight out.

The rush by thousands of foreign nationals and many Afghans to leave began after the Taliban took back control of the country from the Afghan government, capturing all major cities, including the capital on Sunday, ending two decades of war with the U.S., Canada and other western allies. Many Afghans who worked with the foreigners fear the Taliban will imprison or kill them as collaborators. They're also worried about the safety of their families.

Speaking Tuesday, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said Canada has "no plans" to recognize the Taliban regime as the legitimate government in Afghanistan. Trudeau also said the federal government's focus continues to be on getting Afghans who worked for the Canadian military and federal agencies out of the country safely.

But the man said he's had to ask U.S. troops at the airport if they could airlift him out. He said they told him they were only accepting American passport holders. He said he also reached out to the Pakistan consulate for refuge but hasn't heard back yet.

On Monday, hundreds ran alongside a U.S. Air Force plane as it moved down a runway at Kabul's international airport. At least seven people are reported to have died while attempting to hold on to the jet as it took off, according to U.S. officials. 

WATCH | Desperate Afghans flock to airport in bid to flee country:

Desperate Afghans flock to Kabul airport in attempts to flee

4 months ago
2:21
As the Taliban tightens its hold on Afghanistan, desperate people flocked to Kabul’s airport as a last resort to try and get onto planes headed west. 2:21

The Toronto man told CBC News he ended up sleeping between the runway and taxiway at the Kabul airport Sunday night.

"I spent the whole night without water, without food, without anything," he said. "On my left was the Taliban. I was stuck with hundreds of people there."

He said he emailed and called the emergency line at Global Affairs several times, with no response at first. His friend in Canada was eventually able to get him on a conference call with a Global Affairs emergency line operator, who said they were limited in the assistance they could provide.

The man said he asked to speak to a superior but the operator said they were busy with another call.

"Technically, I'm abandoned by Global Affairs Canada," he said.

Global Affairs responds

In an emailed statement to CBC News, Global Affairs wrote, "Canada is aware that there are Canadians seeking to return home. We are working in close coordination with our allies on the ground to secure their safe exit. We continue to monitor the evolving situation."

The department added Ottawa takes the "safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously." 

On Monday, the man went to his mother's house where his brothers and other family members are living. They are all Afghan nationals.

The man said members of the Taliban visited his family home looking for his brothers, who worked for the international community. He said he and his brothers hid for several hours. He hopes Canada can also help his family escape and seek refuge.

"We are in a big chaotic situation. My siblings are in big trouble."

He said on Tuesday, Global Affairs told him there is still no further update on evacuation plans and that he should complete the registration form for Canadians abroad, which he has already done.

The man said he's hearing rumours that the Taliban will start conducting passport checks once American troops completely withdraw from Afghanistan, and worries for his safety as a Canadian.

"The more I wait, the more stable they [the Taliban] are," he said. 

"The more stable they are, the more danger for me."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Yasmine Ghania is a reporter for CBC Saskatchewan, currently based in Saskatoon.

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