The good news is James Akam — an Afghan interpreter for the Canadian troops — received a letter inviting him for an interview at the Canadian Embassy in Berlin.
The bad news is he is in a refugee camp 329 kilometres away and does not have enough money for a train ticket, let alone accommodation and food.
“I am really done with money, guys,” he texted me and former Canadian infantryman Eric Kirkwood, who served with James in Kandahar. “I am down to less than 10 euros.”
A search on the Internet shows a seat sale train trip from Bad Neustadt to Berlin is about 32 euros each way. He is more than 50 euros short.
Whatever cash James did have was used to process his latest paperwork and to get him into Germany, fleeing from Kabul where he is wanted by the Taliban for being a traitor.
Once again, the bureaucracy and red tape in his situation sets the bar to a level difficult for the applicant to achieve. In Akam’s desperate case, the man, whose birth name is Abdul Qayiom Najibullah Habibi, has to achieve it. His wife and son, in hiding in Afghanistan, are counting on it.
There are three dozen “terps” with similar stories also hoping for James to achieve something that has been very difficult so far.
Canadian Immigration has created many hoops for this guy. If he were a terrorist, at least he would get a better travel plan.
Still, thanks perhaps to our cage rattling last week — with the help of Newstalk 1010’s Jim Richards Showgram and SiriusXM 167’s Canada Talks with Charles Adler — immigration officials are starting to move on this. A request for a meeting is better than hearing nothing — especially when Immigration Minister John McCallum has already said he would be “proud” to grant Akam a visa.
I have written Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to ask if refugees are given some assistance with train fare, food and perhaps accommodation in such a situation.
Or if they are just out of luck.
While many Syrian refugees in Canada are housed in business hotels — after receiving teddy bears from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — this man who spent three years on the battlefield with our brave troops is prepared to sleep on the train or even outside in order to achieve the dream of bringing his family to Canada.
I also wrote McCallum and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan to see what they could do.
For now, Kirkwood is trying to see if the crowdfunding site to help James can release some of the $1,100 already raised. Turns out there are verification and security hoops there, too.
My feeling is perhaps a couple of our troops stationed in nearby Poland could jump in a vehicle and drive down to southern part of Germany and chauffeur James up to Berlin so he can make his appointment in the most comfortable and convenient fashion.
He would have done it for them.
As I wrote to Sajjan, it is “a small problem when it comes to a Canadian patriot in uniform in need” and I made the suggestion that when he’s in Ukraine this week, “perhaps you could drop by and see James personally and check on your guy who so far has been left behind” and “maybe even fly him up to Berlin on your plane?”
If he were an ISIS prisoner, he wouldn’t be asked to hitchhike somewhere. But he’s not ISIS or Taliban but a man who risked his life for Canada’s troops.
I don’t recommend that James — as a refugee — hitchhike, but it may come to that. In the end, it doesn’t matter how James Akam gets to his interview in Berlin, as long as he makes it there.
And next, of course, to Canada.