Ottawa advocates plead for intervention after Afghan rights worker's application to come to Canada is rejected

Ottawa Citizen

Joanne Laucius Ottawa Citizen Sep 28, 2022  

Ottawa supporters of an Afghan women’s rights activist say they are outraged that her application to come to Canada was rejected.

Farzana Adell Ghadiya, who is in an undisclosed third country, was rejected for a visitor’s visa when she had actually applied for a Temporary Resident Permit for Protection (TRP), say her support

 “She did not apply for a temporary resident visa. She applied for a TRP,” said Matthew Behrens, co-ordinator of the Rural Refugee Rights Network.

TRPs are only issued in “exceptional circumstances,” according to the Government of Canada’s website. If such an application is successful, the recipient could then apply for permanent residency.

It was shocking that immigration officials seemed not to have fully read Adell Ghadiya’s application, which laid out the threats she faces if she returns to Afghanistan, said Behrens. Adell Ghadiya helped build girls’ schools and maternity hospitals and worked as chief of staff for the UN Commission on the Status of Women in the office of former Afghan president Asraf Ghani.

Her life is threatened if she returns to Afghanistan, said Behrens.

“She has already been beaten to within an inch of her life by the Taliban.”

Adell Ghadiya’s supporters include a core group of Ottawa-area advocates who have been working to bring her to Canada since late last year and are calling on Immigration Minister Sean Fraser to intervene immediately to provide her with a TRP as a pathway to safe and permanent residence in Canada.

The TRP is a perfectly legitimate route for refugees to get to Canada, said Behrens, one that has been used in the past by the Rural Refugee Rights Network.

The group can also file for a judicial review, but it might take a year or longer, and Adell Ghadiya doesn’t have that long, he said.

Bessa Whitmore, a retired Carleton University social work professor, has offered Adell Ghadiya a place to stay for free if she is permitted to come to Ottawa.

Whitmore can’t understand why the file was rejected. “Presumably, they’re overwhelmed. But they didn’t even read the application properly,” she claimed.

Other efforts have also failed. Adell Ghadiya’s situation has attracted more than 30,000 signatures on a petition.

“We have met with a number of MPs and there has been nothing. The minister has the discretion to approve the application,” said Whitmore. “It’s very discouraging.”

The country in which Adell Ghadiya is now in hiding can’t be named because it might make her a target for deportation. She was there when Kabul fell in August 2021 because she was delivering equipment and materials for a trade school for women. Her visa to remain in that country expires at the end of the year.

Because Adell Ghadiya can’t work in that country, her supporters have been sending her money for rent, food and other necessities. But her skills and expertise are what Canada needs, said Whitmore.

Behrens raises questions about the slowness of the government’s efforts to bring Afghans to Canada. The Canadian government has committed to resettling at least 40,000 Afghan refugees in Canada as quickly and safely as possible.

In order to qualify for Canada’s special humanitarian program for Afghan refugees, Adell Ghadiya would have to register with the UN Refugee Agency or the government of the country where she is staying — but refugees where she is hiding stopped being registered years ago.

In a statement from within that country, Adell Ghadiya appealed to Fraser to grant her the permit to enter Canada.

Adell Ghadiya said she was proud of the support she has received so far from Canadians.

“This is a good example of practising philanthropy without borders. But the fact that Canada’s immigration department ignores this support and the request of its citizens in my case and those of many other Afghan refugees is very disheartening,” she said. “This is not consistent with the human values that were previously announced by Canada to shelter Afghan women, and creates disappointment, in my mind.”

Women had been working to improve women’s rights and now are under threat, as are members of minorities, said Adell Ghadiya, who is a member of the Hazara ethnic group.

Rejecting the refugee requests of at-risk Afghan women is “equivalent to murdering us since this means we will face the torture and violence of the Taliban if we are forced back,” she argued.