Former military interpreters stranded in Afghanistan call on Trudeau for help
Canadian volunteers shielding them from Taliban reprisals say they're running out of money
Hundreds of former interpreters for the Canadian military, still stranded in Afghanistan, have issued their own desperate pleas directly to the Liberal government.
The former translators, many of them from Kandahar, have sent a group email to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, several senior cabinet ministers and members of the media.
All of them have been hiding in safehouses in Kabul since the allied military evacuation ended almost two months ago. They have been supported and kept safe by a group of volunteers — mostly Canadian veterans whose fundraising efforts paid for lodging and meals — while they wait for immigration officials to approve their asylum applications and to find an exit from Afghanistan, now in the grip of the Taliban.
The Canadian volunteers, working through the group Aman Lara, are running out of cash. They notified the more than 1,800 Afghans they support that they'll have to stop funding the hideouts on Nov. 5.
"This has caused grave concerns among us," said the email from the translators to Trudeau and his cabinet.
"[We} cannot afford our stay in Kabul through self-finance, and we CANNOT go back to Kandahar because we have now become an easy target since the people in our communities in Kandahar know that we have escaped, and that we had been associated with the Canadian government."
The letter goes on to say that many of the former translators and their families have sold their homes and furnishings and no longer have livelihoods.
'It is just a matter of time'
"Hence, we are all in a dire situation, fearing for our lives every single day, even in Kabul city. It is just a matter of time before our safe houses are discovered and we are targeted," the email says.
The translators said they understand the Canadian government may be reluctant to directly finance Aman Lara. They argue that Ottawa could expedite the asylum applications still outstanding and provide so-called "gate passes" to allow them to get to safe third countries.
If it's at all possible, they said, they would prefer safe passage to the United Arab Emirates rather than Pakistan, where Taliban influence and activities remain strong.
"We will be safe, and will not fear for our life, and will wait for the evacuation to Canada to take its due course," the email says.
The Liberal government has been criticized repeatedly over the chaotic evacuation of western citizens and at-risk Afghans. The airlift, led by the U.S., came to an end on Aug. 31 following the Taliban takeover two weeks previous.
Thousands of Afghans who worked for western forces, aid agencies and media outlets were left behind and remain under threat.
The Taliban had promised no retaliation but there have been several reports of murders, including of prominent journalists.
As late as last week, NATO defence ministers were painting the overall evacuation as a major success.