Kimia Moshiri from Moshiri Immigration Services has quickly become one of the most prominent figures in Canada for assisting Afghan refugees during this time of need. With more than 5 years working in the immigration field, she has developed a knowledge of the system along with a deep passion for helping those impacted by it.
After receiving news of the Taliban’s control over Afghanistan, Moshiri knew that she had to do as much as possible to help people stuck in Afghanistan immigrate to Canada.
The pro bono services that she offers have already successfully helped people immigrate and are continuing to help many more as we navigate this difficult time for Afghanistan.
Hello Kimia, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions, let’s start with the obvious, what inspired you to get involved in immigration?
Thank you for having me. Well, I started my journey very early. Since high school, I have been passionate about immigration law, and I completed my education at York University in law and public administration. I was in my undergrad years when I started working at a well-known immigration firm in Richmond Hill. I worked at the firm for several years and assisted many immigrants and asylum seekers with their applications. I passed the required examinations and became one of the youngest Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants who started my own firm at a young age.
I come from an Iranian background, and my parents immigrated to Canada in the 1980s. Although I was born and raised in Canada, I always kept close with my family back home, and in fact, I studied for a few years in Iran. Getting to experience both Canada and Iran really allowed me to broaden my horizons and see the world from a different perspective. I grew up hearing stories of my parents’ struggles and difficulties trying to immigrate to Canada back then, and it inspired me to help immigrants and refugees come to Canada easier.
What made you decide to take on pro-bono cases for Afghan refugees coming to Canada? How has your experience been so far?
It actually started very suddenly. I was following the news in Afghanistan, and I started getting calls from people looking for a way to help their families there. Many had, and still have, their loved ones stuck in Afghanistan. The first call we got was from one of our present clients who had a sponsorship application in process for her husband in Afghanistan. She was desperately looking for a way to get expedited processing on his application. I accepted her case right away because I wanted to do anything to get her husband to Canada, and I am glad that I did because her husband is now in Canada with his wife.
After several calls, I decided to accept more pro bono cases and help others in this frustrating situation. We shared a post on our social media announcing that we would be taking Afghan refugee cases as pro bono. It was incredible how in less than 24 hours, our Instagram post was circulating all over social media. Everyone was doing their part in sharing our post so we would be able to assist more Afghans. Our phone did not stop ringing for two weeks, and we got more than 2,000 emails. We were getting requests from all over the world, and we still are.
We heard many tragic stories of families being separated from each other. One of our current cases involves an underage child who was somehow allowed to get on a flight without his parents, and now he is in Canada. We are trying everything we can to bring his parents to Canada to reunite with him. We will continue our efforts to help those we can.
What measures did the Government of Canada enforce in response to the situation in Afghanistan? What are your insights on that?
Following the devastating news of Afghanistan, IRCC introduced new special measures for Afghan nationals to come to Canada, but the instructions on how to apply still remain unclear. Their dedicated email addresses are not responsive at all. Thousands are still waiting for a reply from IRCC, but the only email they have received is an automated response with links to their website, no matter if the individual has worked with the Canadian government, is inside or outside Afghanistan, or has immediate family members in Canada.
Before Canadian forces left Afghanistan, several flights took from Kabul to a third country and then Canada. Many were able to get on the flights and escape the situation there; however, thousands were left behind and turned back at the Kabul Airport because they did not have the required documentation from IRCC allowing them to get on a flight. Meanwhile, IRCC is still not responding to emails, let alone providing allow-to-board documents.
The new special measures that IRCC introduced are all great, but they are not being implemented probably. Canada has promised to accept 20,000 Afghan refugees and has set out the eligibility criteria, but IRCC is not providing any type of assistance for those who are eligible. Unfortunately, no communication is being received from IRCC or officials.
The recent exodus from Afghanistan must have been confronting, as it was for all of us – is there anything that ordinary citizens can do to support the processing of more refugees and those fleeing conflict?
Of course, community members can always be of assistance. For example, many local individuals reached out to us, offering to help newly arrived Afghan refugees. Some said they would provide refugees with shelter and clothing; others agreed to help with their job search, registering their kids in school, or simply just providing emotional support. This is the type of support that will be greatly needed for new Afghans coming to Canada. We couldn’t believe the amount of support we received from community members, not only from Afghan individuals but also from all community members. This gave us a stronger motive to continue our work.
There are other ways to help Afghans as well. Thousands of Afghans have fled Afghanistan and are already registered with the UNHCR office in a third country. They are now just hoping that a group of Canadians would sponsor them to Canada since they don’t have any family here. So far, we have received several letters of interest from individuals who are willing to sponsor Afghan refugees; however, the list is very short, and we definitely need more people to come forward.
What kind of obligations do you think Canada has towards Afghans in this situation? What do you think the Canadian government should be doing right now?
Well, I would have to say that the first thing they should be doing is responding to those who have been waiting for IRCC’s email for weeks now. Not an automated response, but an actual response with options and instructions for these people. With all the chaos in Afghanistan and the situation there, these people deserve a response, especially those who have helped the government of Canada and now have their life on the line.
Second, IRCC should lay out the instructions to apply for the new humanitarian program. Many Afghans have escaped the country and got themselves to nearby countries, hoping to apply under this program. Enough time has passed, and the program should start accepting applications as soon as possible.
During all these years, Afghans have assisted the government of Canada and supported their projects and work. Canada made a promise to accept 20,000 Afghan refugees and help evacuate those who have helped its government. Thousands of Afghans who have worked with the government of Canada either directly or through Canadian-funded projects are now facing a threat to their life in Afghanistan.
Canada has one of the best refugee systems globally and we have always prided ourselves on accepting refugees worldwide. We should continue to help those in need of protection and stick with the promise we made. Right now, there are no Canadian forces in Afghanistan, and this means that there is almost no option for those inside Afghanistan.
What would your future plans be for accepting pro bono cases? Will you continue to take pro bono cases in the future?
I am immensely proud of the work we did in this project, and I assure you that we will continue to help people in need of immigration assistance. We are now representing many Afghans in their immigration applications and have assisted the community members with sending emails to IRCC. This is one of those critical situations in which immigration professionals are greatly needed. Many other RCICs reached out to us and lent a hand to help. We are incredibly thankful for their support and offers of help.
We want to thank all those volunteers who came into our office or helped us remotely around the clock to make this happen. Without their support, we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish any of this. We would also like to thank all those individuals who have shared our social media post and allowed us to help more at-need Afghans. We are happy that we have been able to impact the lives of people, and we would like to announce our firm’s commitment to accept a limited number of pro bono cases per year. We will assess the requests for pro bono on a case-by-case basis and accept those in greater need and who cannot afford immigration services.
Thank you for your time Kimia!