Up to 400 Afghan refugees expected in Calgary following fall of Kabul to Taliban

Roughly 40 per cent of the refugee population are children, Birjandian said

Fariborz Birjandian has been involved in immigration and refugee efforts for many years. SCREENSHOT FROM CALGARY CATHOLIC IMMIGRATION SOCIETY WEBSITE

On Aug. 15, Kabul fell to the Taliban, leading thousands of Afghans trying to flee the country.

Various organizations across Canada are getting prepared to welcome those who were able to escape.

Khatera Rashidi, an immigrant from Kabul living in Calgary, said she is especially concerned about the women and children in Kabul.

“Those people don’t know about human rights,” she said.

Rashidi escaped a “bad life and situation” by moving to Canada in 2018, but she has family and friends living in Kabul.

“Every night [I’m] having bad dreams about their future. We don’t know what will happen next,” Rashidi said.

It’s a difficult situation, said Fariborz Birjandian, Co-Chair of the National Settlement for Afghani Refugees and CEO of the Calgary Catholic Immigrant Society.

“These people are really desperate. They are just leaving the country, without any of the normal immigration process completed,” said Birjandian.

Initial numbers determined about 6,000 people will be expected to immigrate to Canada in coming weeks, Birjandian said.

Between 300 and 400 of those people are expected to come to Calgary.

However, on Sunday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada’s commitment to resettle 20,000 refugees.

“We save about 18,000 refugees every year,” Birjandian said.

“We are providing information and engaging stakeholders like the school board, health authority and landlords.”

About 40 per cent of the refugee population are children, he said.

“We are focusing on making sure they go to school and overall community support and volunteers that can provide a way to start a reasonable life in Calgary for these newcomers,” Birjandian said.

Preparation for refugees

Refugee resettlement is an ongoing practice in Canada, so they have a reception house and programs to facilitate and accommodate immigrants, Birjandian said.

Rashidi said many non-profit organizations in Canada offer support for immigrants.

“I like Calgary because it [has] helped me so much, I see a bright future for the people who are coming from there,” Rashidi said.

The Margaret Chisholm Resettlement Centre and various hotels will offer temporary accommodation until more permanent housing can be attained.

Language translators have also been hired to ease the process.

Calgary Catholic Immigration Society accepts donations on behalf of 32 organizations across the country, Birjandian said.

“We will provide them with the support they need for the first couple of months or a year and hopefully by then they will become a part of the community,” Birjandian said.

Volunteers will be needed to support the Kabul refugee population, he said.

Other Calgary organizations are also taking part in the refugee efforts.

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