APPROXIMATELY 300 Sikh and Hindu families living across Afghanistan face constant discrimination, the inability to fully practice their faith, and threats of violence says Alberta MLA Manmeet Singh Bhullar (Progressive Conservative) who just returned from his personal mission to South Asia.
“Since the NATO withdrawal in December 2014, extremists have made it very difficult for minorities to live in Afghanistan,” said Bhullar. “Due to religious persecution in some regions, Sikh children have been unable to attend school for over seven years. Some families can’t even leave their gurdwara. Additionally, militants threaten Afghans who help or interact with Sikhs.”
Many families and organizations within Canada have stepped up and offered their support to bring these families to Canada as refugees. However, the Government of Canada needs to waive a paperwork requirement that says refugees can only apply from outside their own country under the private sponsorship program.
“It’s cruel to send these families to other countries to apply for refugee status, where they may become homeless beggars for months or years while waiting for Canada to approve their paperwork,” adds Bhullar. “Most of them can’t safely leave their homes, let alone survive car bombs, kidnappings, and other ethnic violence perpetrated by militant extremists along the way.”
Bhullar met with Afghan Sikh refugees in New Delhi along with a Sikh delegation from Afghanistan. He heard directly from a father whose son was kidnapped and beaten, along with having his hair and beard cut off because of his refusal to abandon his Sikh faith.
The kidnappers then threatened to murder this young man, but his life was spared after payment of a hefty ransom. Bhullar also learned that Sikh and Hindu families are threatened with death if they fail to convert to Islam.
“Please do what is right and allow refugees directly from Afghanistan to come to Canada under the private sponsorship program” said Bhullar. “Our community is ready and willing to privately sponsor all of these individuals to come to Canada. We are not asking for any monetary support from the Government. We only need them to waive the requirement for these individuals to leave their home country to be sponsored.”
Canada has previously waived this requirement for refugees from countries like Sudan, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. MLA Bhullar wants Canada to make the same exception for Afghan minorities.