Winnipeg rally urges federal government to help those trying to flee Afghanistan

As his family hides out in Kabul, Winnipegger Bashir Faqiri waits for their signal to know when it’s safe for him to check in.

The cue is simple: a text message with the word “salam.” It means peace, Faqiri said, but it’s also often used as a greeting.

“As soon as that goes through, you know that’s your opportunity to talk to them. You call them, you’re able to talk to them for a couple minutes, discuss what’s going on, how everybody’s doing, how the family’s doing. And then they’re like, ‘Oh, I gotta go.’ And that’s it,” he said.

“They’re trying to stay as quiet as possible.”

On Saturday, Faqiri helped organize a rally to draw attention to the plight of his family and others like them. 

He was among dozens who turned up on the steps of the Manitoba Legislative Building to call on the Canadian government to get rid of obstacles for people trying to flee Afghanistan as the Taliban takes over.

Faqiri said he wants Ottawa to expand its eligibility criteria to accept more refugees from the region.

A person speaks to the crowd at Saturday’s rally. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

“I feel helpless, not being able to do anything,” said the 21-year-old University of Manitoba student.

“[Liberal Leader Justin] Trudeau was saying that he was going to take out our people and make sure that we’re not left behind, but exactly 48 hours later he did exactly the opposite of that.”

Canada’s mission to airlift those fleeing Afghanistan ended on Thursday after helping to evacuate more than 3,700 people from Kabul.

While the federal government says it’s aware there are still Canadian citizens, permanent residents and their families who remain in the country, there are currently no plans for further evacuation flights.

“I want them to get our people out,” Faqiri said.

He said he’s written to all 57 members of Manitoba’s legislative assembly to urge them to take up the issue with the government. He’s heard back from only two.

“It’s definitely discouraging to see that, that no one really cares,” he said.

“It hurts to talk about [it], but it’s what needs to be talked about.”

On Friday, the federal government vowed to keep helping people still trying to flee Afghanistan. It urged those still in the country to stay there while the coalition mission changes.

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