Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Thanks for the Help, Now Get Lost.

Source: CBC News: Canada Rejects Majority of Afghan Interpreters' Refugee Claims

After getting a good night's sleep, but waking up fairly early, I found myself browsing the news websites and was greeted by this headline. Now, you have to do some digging on CBC to even find the article. So, since it's fallen so quickly to the wayside, I figured I'd do my part and bring it up here.

I know, I said I was going to try and focus more on Saskatchewan aspects (what with the election coming), but federal politics still remains the easiest to find news sources for. I could easily find sources through party websites for Saskatchewan, but I think it's best to stick to news organizations.

So, what is this article all about?

Essentially, Canada's immigration department has turned their back on Afghan citizens who served as translators for the Canadian Armed Forces in Afghanistan. In fact, according to the CBC, two out of three translators were rejected for immigration based on refugee status.

Through some nitpicking, the department of immigration set requirements for those seeking refugee status; primarily, the condition that the applicant must have served 12 consecutive months of service with the Armed Forces, and that those twelve months exist after October 2007 - July 2011.

Let's examine those dates for a moment, shall we?

Think back to when the US first attacked Afghanistan, in retaliation for their involvement of the 9/11 attacks and the harbouring of Osama Bin Laden. What year was that?

It was, if you recall, 2001. Canada, among with numerous other international allies, joined the US in the war as in 2001. That means, that Canadian troops were involved in Afghanistan since 2001. Which means that six years of translation services are not being covered by the timeline set by the department of immigration.

Granted, they are trying to tie the situation to those who worked within just Kandahar; but I think it is safe to say that translators worked for Canadians throughout Afghanistan, wherever Canadians could be found, not just in Kandahar. As such, the department seems to be intentionally omitting anyone who provided service prior to 2007.

The main question to look at here is should translators be given access to Canada as refugees?

Essentially, the answer is yes. It's no secret that translators have been targeted by Taliban insurgents since the war began, and that many have faced violence and threats of violence because of their co-operation with NATO powers.

With troops slowly withdrawing from Afghanistan, these former translators are going to find themselves in a bad situation; especially, should Afghanistan become what is known as a 'failed state'.

Perhaps I should attempt to explain that concept before moving on. A failed state is more or less what it sounds like. A country which underwent a radical change, in this case from a near theocratic junta to democracy, which failed to maintain itself. Effectively, if democracy fails in Afghanistan (due to either corruption in the system, or a rise in Taliban support and control, or some other situtation), those who helped any one other than the current regime will find themselves targets.

It may be 'defeatism', but there is a possibility of this happen in Afghanistan. As I've said times before, though perhaps not on this blog, no country has ever successfully switched to a democracy without the people of the country supporting it.

Or to compact that, democracy is something that starts from within the country. It cannot be fought for by external powers hoping to switch a nation towards democratic ideals. As such, the people of Afghanistan have to decide that they want democracy and the things that come with it. Only when they accept that, and are willing to fight for it, will they be able to keep a democratic system functioning.

My sense is the people of Afghanistan are generally happy to be rid of the Taliban, but they don't necessarily support having a full democratic regime either. And that is where the problem comes in. Unless they are willing to have a democracy, we can't force one upon them. Which means we are personally responsible for the problems that will be created if Afghanistan becomes a failed state.

Which further extends to the fact that we are responsible for the people who helped us, and who will become further targets by countrymen who see them as traitors. You can say that they knew the risks associated with the job, but they also knew that immigration out of Afghanistan was possible because of taking the job.

This program was created with the purpose of getting those people who helped us out of the country for their safety. Unsurprisingly, a similar American program has performed even worse than the Canadian one, after it handed out zero visas to immigrants.

The facts are this: Like it or not, we are responsible for the situation these translators find themselves in. We have a responsibility to assist those we can, especially when programs are created to help them. As of now, that program is failing.

It's true, there's no way we can remove every translator who helped us and give them a new home in Canada; that's just unfeasible. But to reject two out of every three that come to us for help, is unacceptable. These people risked their lives for us, and will still be in danger when we leave (if circumstances do not improve in Afghanistan).

Is this how we repay those who help us?

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