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Canada is criticized for not getting more endangered Afghans into the country

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We've reported a lot in recent days on Afghanistan one year after the Taliban took power. This morning, we report on Afghans who fled. Canada promised to take in 40,000 refugees. And it has received a lot. But one year later, many have no homes. Emma Jacobs reports from Toronto.

(SOUNDBITE OF BABY CRYING)

EMMA JACOBS, BYLINE: Abdullah Ghulam Rabani is the father of a healthy newborn son. But Omar is not the only thing keeping him awake at night. Abdullah is safely in Canada. He came here more than a decade ago after being injured in a bomb blast while working with Canadian Forces. But his father, Ghulam Rabani Nasar, also a military interpreter, is stuck halfway around the world in the Arab country of Qatar. So when Abdullah was in the hospital for his son's birth, his own father was frantically messaging him.

ABDULLAH GHULAM RABANI: I was in the hospital, and my dad - he's sending pictures, like, OK, what to do next? We should go back to Afghanistan. How we can go? - (crying) because we don't have a home.

JACOBS: Abdullah's father is desperate to come to Canada, along with his wife and eight children. They managed to escape from Afghanistan to Qatar last October with help from a Canadian nonprofit. Ever since they arrived in the small Arab nation, the family of 10 have been living in two rooms. And for months, they've only been allowed to go outside twice a week with a government escort.

A GHULAM RABANI: Hello?

NASAR GHULAM RABANI: Hello.

A GHULAM RABANI: (Speaking Pashto). You hear me?

JACOBS: Abdullah's father has forgotten most of his English since he hasn't worked with the Canadian military in many years. But the fact that he worked with them in the first place, he believes, still makes him a target in Afghanistan. So as his son explains here, he's still afraid to go home.

N GHULAM RABANI: (Speaking Pashto).

A GHULAM RABANI: My kids are always saying, like, why we are here with no education and, like, with unknown future? And for how long we will be here? And why we are punished?

JACOBS: Since last August, just over 17,000 Afghans have arrived in Canada - among them, Afghan interpreters who worked with the Canadian military, but also human rights activists and Afghan journalists. But critics say Canada has failed to make changes that would get more endangered Afghans to Canada as quickly as possible.

Retired major Mark Campbell is a Canadian veteran of the war in Afghanistan. He was fighting alongside Abdullah when they were both seriously injured in 2008.

MARK CAMPBELL: I think the Canadian government has really dropped the ball in terms of its responsibility to those people that are left behind, particularly the ones that work directly with the Canadian Forces or the Canadian diplomatic effort in Kabul.

JACOBS: But the Canadian government strongly disagrees. The minister of immigration, Sean Fraser, says his country is doing all it can. But he says getting out of Afghanistan is difficult for many applicants. And most of the spots in the resettlement program have already been allocated. And what that means is some Afghans who worked with Canada will be left behind, as the minister acknowledges.

SEAN FRASER: The reality on the ground is that not every single person who would like to come to Canada, some of whom may have made a contribution to our effort there in some way, shape or form - it may not be possible for everyone to join. And, of course, some people will not want to come to Canada. Many, many, many will - many more than we can expect to resettle here.

JACOBS: Meanwhile, Abdullah sits in his Toronto apartment, surrounded by his stacks of paperwork relating to family members' cases, trying not to lose hope and to keep his family spirits up.

A GHULAM RABANI: I'm saying your file is in progress. Your file is in process. Don't worry. You will come to Canada.

JACOBS: It's what the Canadian government tells him. But like thousands of others, all this family can do is wait.

For NPR News, I'm Emma Jacobs in Toronto.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONOCLE TWINS' "MOMENTUM") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Emma Jacobs