Canadian compassion in action: Recognizing B.C.’s resettlement of Afghan refugees

We played a key role in the Canadian government’s humanitarian efforts to settle at risk Afghan refugees who arrived in Canada as part of the government’s Afghan Special Intiative (ASI). In late 2023, Canada had welcomed over 40,000 Afghans through the ASI. The below article offers details into the work of our staff and the immense commitment they made in ensuring those arriving from Afghanistan felt safe and welcome.

This is an excerpt from a Vancouver Sun article, which can be found here.

For most Canadians, news in August 2021 of the Government of Canada’s commitment to resettling 40,000 Afghan refugees arrived quietly with the morning paper. However, for Immigrant Services Society of British Columbia (ISSofBC) staff who have been welcoming newcomers and refugees to B.C. for over 50 years, it was an unprecedented call to action.

“One morning, I received a call: ‘There is an urgent task in Toronto; a charter plane will be coming to land. Are you ready?’” says Abdul Fatah Samim, one of two ISSofBC staff who went to Toronto within 24 hours to assist the Afghans who had been evacuated from Kabul.

Firouzeh Peyvandi and Abdul Samim Fateh were among the staff that travelled to Toronto in 2021 to support newly arrived Afghan refugees.

For several days, charter flights with more than 200 people arrived directly from an active conflict zone and went straight into COVID-19 quarantine.

“Arriving with little more than backpacks, many had not planned to leave their homes and knew little about Canada,” says Firouzeh Peyvandi.

Along with the refugees, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and the settlement sector in Canada had little time to plan, only to react. Responding to the immediate challenges required immense dedication and passion.

Ahmed Fadhil, ISSofBC, knew he was part of something special. “I took it as a great humanitarian gesture, showcasing empathy, and recognizing the importance of supporting refugees.”

“It was incredibly meaningful to watch everyone in our organization and community come together in a chaotic, high-pressure situation to support people when they needed it most,” says Jennifer York, ISSofBC. A unique situation, this was the first time the teams worked 24/7. Tasks included modifying wraparound settlement services, hosting online information sessions, working tirelessly with IRCC, organizing child care, arranging COVID-19 tests and delivering groceries to hotel rooms.

To read the full article, visit The Vancouver Sun

Additional ISSofBC staff involved in the creation of this story: Bahar Taheri, Kathy Sherrell, Mazhar Iqbal, Shabnam Sadeqi and Ewa Karczewska.

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