Prominent Afghan women’s rights activist denied refugee admission into Canada, upsetting sponsors

In one of the latest disappointment in Canada’s efforts to aid Afghan refugees, a prominent Afghan women’s activist has had her temporary resident permit application denied, seemingly because of a bureaucratic mistake.

Bessa Whitmore and Sharen Craig have been working for seven months to bring Farzana Adell Ghadiya to the safety of Ottawa.

As sponsors, they had agreed to open their home to Ghadiya and provide her safety once she was able to make it to Canada.

For more than a decade, Ghadiya has fought for women’s rights in Afghanistan, starting schools and working with the United Nations. She’s also Hazara, an ethnic minority targeted by the Taliban.

Ghadiya was forced to flee Afghanistan after the Taliban took over in August 2021, and has been waiting in a third country for Canada to take her in.

But in a bureaucratic bungle, her application for a temporary resident permit was assessed as a request for a visa and rejected.

“It was really disappointing for me, but I have lots of support from the Canadian people,” Ghadiya told CTV National News.

Her sponsors say that the rejection is the result of negligence on the part of the government.

“Somebody didn’t read the application, or it was vetted by a machine,” Whitmore said. “I suspect that someone just didn’t look at it carefully, because she was rejected for something that she didn’t apply for.”

Women and women’s rights activists from Afghanistan have been highlighted by Canada as a refugee group that is vulnerable to reprisal by the Taliban. But now, Ghadiya is back at square one in her quest to escape to Canada.

“She’s cared for, she’s loved, and she’s in need, and she’s all alone,” Craig told CTV News.

Canada hasn’t yet met its commitment of settling 40,000 Afghan refugees. Ghadiya’s rejection stings even more, because her sponsors see different treatment for a different group.

Since the fall of Kabul in August 2021, Canada has welcomed more than 21,000 Afghan refugees in 14 months.

But since January 2022, nearly 100,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Canada, most of them fleeing war — more than four times the amount of Afghan refugees in less time.

Jenny Kwan, NDP MP for East Vancouver, told CTV National News that many “feel that this practice is discriminatory.”

“The reality is this: the government is not offering the same or similar immigration measures for Afghans and they are being left behind.”

Immigration officials say Ghadiya can reapply.

They also say they will be launching a new program to help more Afghans by eliminating the requirement to get status from the United Nations Refugee Agency — but that program won’t begin until next October.

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