Feds leave Afghan interpreter hanging

TORONTO - Immigration Minister John McCallum has not only said that James Akam — an Afghan interpreter who assisted Canadian troops for three years — can come to Canada, but insisted he was “pleased” to make it happen.

That was Jan. 22 and Akam is still not here.

Time is of the essence as March 8 is the final day marked on the refugee visa that allows the husband and father the right to stay in Germany.

Akam was in a German refugee camp being transferred to an unknown location. He believes authorities are keeping him in a holding area where they can put him on a plane back to Afghanistan — and sure death.

Even though the minister said he could come, it seems red tape has ensured the process is not moving at the same pace as the 29-year-old’s mounting problems.

“Pleased to grant visa to James Akan (sic). Have directed department to move fast on his processing,” McCallum tweeted on Jan. 22.

They better hasten the pace since after March 8, he will not be in Germany legally. If authorities send him home, Akam is sure the Taliban or ISIS will kill him as a “traitor” for helping Canada’s troops from 2008 to 2011 on the field of battle.

His parents were murdered for this reason. His wife and young son are in hiding in Afghanistan and have to relocate to a new bunker every week.

“I am very worried,” he told me.

Me too.

I have been trying to find out why immigration officials are taking so long, but they won’t tell me. Seems the previous waiver James signed to allow me in on his situation has expired.

“Mr. Akam can submit an electronic picture of the signed form,” e-mailed Jessica Seguin, spokesman for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

Sure, and pick up a Starbucks latte and some sushi, too.

Hopefully, not everybody in Ottawa is so clueless that such a request is not reasonable.

The last time he signed documents, he said, he had to walk 12 kilometres into a town to get proper Internet.

I thought it was abuse then. I’m less thrilled this time. It’s like they are playing a game of snakes and ladders with James.

Not lost in this is all the fast-tracking and document-bending done for the Syrian refugees — none of whom defended Canadian troops on the battlefield.

Akam, and all of the other interpreters like him, should be at the front of the line. McCallum understood this and hopefully he will impart that to his department, which has not even sent a representative to visit this man.

I have tried to shake up immigration officials with some strong e-mails but I don’t get the feeling they care very much.

But they soon will find out there are people in this country who do care what happens to James Akam and his family.

The veterans who served with him, to start with.

“If one hair on his or his family’s head is harmed due to your obvious lack of respect and intentional misdirection, I can promise you there will be a media circus to follow,” former Royal Canadian Regiment corporal Eric Kirkwood e-mailed immigration on Monday.

Kirkwood told me: “I will rally all veterans I know and have worked with who consider James as much a part of the military family as they do any other soldier who fought beside us in Afghanistan.”

He said they will demonstrate “on the hill in berets and medals and call every media outlet I can find to put an end to this travesty of justice.”

Count me in. I will help organize this.

But better yet, immigration officials, just process Akam and his family as McCallum told you to. And do it before the Taliban track them down.


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