Found on 680 News Toronto's website.
Cda finally processing entry requests for Afghan interpreters, but few make cut
CALGARY - More than a year after Ottawa promised to fast-track immigration applications for Afghan translators a narrow list of applicants who meet the criteria to come to Canada has been compiled.
Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney originally announced the program for Afghans who face "extraordinary personal risk" in support of Canada's mission to Kandahar.
But out of 114 applications only 25, or roughly 21 per cent, have been approved to come to Canada by the joint committee made up of officials from the departments of National Defence, Foreign Affairs, International Development and Immigration and Citizenship. The committee works in conjunction with the International Organization for Migration, an intergovernmental agency.
"We're beginning to process some of the approved applications. There was a delay because we need to work as well through the International Organization for Migration and they removed all their staff for security reasons in Kandahar," Kenney said in a recent interview.
"The security situation has made it go slower than I would have liked but we're finally starting to process some of those positive applications and some of those people should be settling in Canada shortly."
Neither Kenney nor officials in his department could say exactly when the successful immigrants, who are allowed to bring along two family members each, would finally be arriving in Canada.
Applicants require 12 months service to the Canadian mission and a recommendation letter from a senior soldier or diplomat. They also need to meet standard immigration criteria such as criminal, medical and security screening before being allowed to come to Canada.
They're not considered refugees, but special immigrants who fall through the cracks of current law. At the time Kenney said he expected "a few hundred'' successful applicants to qualify by the time the mission and the program ends in 2011.
The life of an interpreter who works with the NATO-led mission can be a dangerous one. An unexpected knock, a threatening late-night phone call, or a so-called "night letter'' nailed to the front door — such intimidation tactics are a chilling fact of life for locals who work as translators for the Canadian Forces or federal agencies on the ground in Afghanistan.
Insurgents have gone to gruesome lengths to make an example of locals who work with NATO. In one case, several interpreters' bodies were strung up in a public square and left to rot there for weeks as a lesson to anyone thinking of helping the foreigners.
Both the delay and the low number of interpreters that have so far been approved is a concern to Liberal MP Dan McTeague, the party critic for consular affairs.
"Obviously the time this has taken is painfully slow and certainly an agonizing time for those who have been given assurances that everything would be done at the early stages," said McTeague.
"It's a troubling statistic. One would hope that the numbers do reflect the need and that we are not leaving someone behind unduly who might otherwise suffer as a result of our ability to determine who is legitimate and who isn't."
McTeague said for those who have been working with Canadian efforts going back to 2005, the wait can be seen as "stretching the limits" of what would be considered fast-tracking.
The interpreters — "terps," in military parlance — are vital in the coalition's effort to communicate with most Afghans. By the country's usual standards, it's lucrative work — $600 a month, compared with the national average of just $300 a year. Afghan soldiers, by comparison, make $250 a month.
Many interpreters live and travel full time with Canadian soldiers, helping commanders converse with village elders, politicians or local villagers.