Health

Canada to resettle female Afghan judges, families living in limbo

In addition to the judges and their families,
a group totalling about 230 people, Canada will also resettle an unspecified
number of Afghans from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer
communities who had been referred by a third-party aid organization, the
spokesperson said.

They are expected to come to Canada next year
but there is no firm date.

Canada has promised to resettle 40,000 Afghan
refugees but has no timeline for doing so. Since the Taliban took control of
the country after the US troop withdrawal in August, Canada has resettled 3,915
Afghans with connections to the Canadian government and another 2,535 on
humanitarian grounds, according to government figures.

Afghan women made great strides in the two
decades since the Taliban last ruled the country from 1996 to 2001, joining
previously all-male bastions such as the judiciary, the media and politics.

“All the achievements of 20 years came
back to zero within the blink of an eye,” said Freshta Masoni, a family
court judge staying in Athens with her toddler daughters.

Since returning to power, the Taliban pledged
to protect women’s rights in accordance with Islamic law, announcing a general
“amnesty” for all former state workers. But advocates fear a
backslide to when women were not allowed to work and girls were banned from
school.

Even if they can leave the country, Afghan
asylum-seekers may face years of waits amid logistical backlogs and delays.
Western countries usually resettle refugees referred by the UN refugee agency,
which has limited capacity to process applications for resettlement.

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“The biggest bottleneck there is the
issue that referral partners in the region have not been able to ramp up
capacity,” Canada’s immigration minister, Sean Fraser, said earlier this
month. “These challenges are going to take a little bit of time to sort
out.”

Afghanistan’s refugee situation is different
from the Syrian refugee crisis that galvanized the world several years ago, UN
refugee agency officials and advocates say.

Unlike Syria, the Afghan crisis escalated
rapidly during a global pandemic and many face difficulties leaving the
country. Those who do leave face additional waits, often in countries with
little capacity to support them.

Some of the female judges, who have been
living in Greece since October, said they have lacked health coverage because
of their temporary visa status.

Advocates have called on countries to resettle
Afghans without requiring a designation from the UNHCR or other NGOs, a step
Canada has signalled it is open to.

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