Canada is welcoming Afghan refugees who flee Kabul after the Taliban takeover, especially those at high risk due to their sexual or political orientation.
An Afghan boy who remained in Qatar for two weeks after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has reunited with his father in Toronto on Monday, local media reported.
According to The Globe and Mail, the three-year-old boy travelled on a 14-hour flight from Hamad International Airport to Toronto’s Pearson Airport on Monday where he was received by his father in Ontario who hadn’t seen him for two years.
The three-year-old spent his time on the plane scribbling in colouring books and watching his favourite Cars 3 movie, the report said.
The unnamed child was evacuated to Doha along with hundreds of other Afghan citizens on 28 August 28, onboard one of the last evacuation flights out of Kabul airport.
He was cared for by Qatari authorities at a designated centre for unaccompanied minors in the Gulf state for over two weeks after narrowly escaping a deadly bombing at Kabul’s airport that killed at least 169 Afghan people and 13 US soldiers.
Qatari and Canadian authorities pulled together with the United Nations to work towards reuniting him with his family.
“He is absolutely [an] amazing child, so well behaved and very mature for his age,” said Stella Dshurina, a project officer with the United Nations’ International Organization For Migration, who met him the night before accompanying him from Doha to Canada.
The young boy had reportedly reached Qatar after a 17-year-old saved him at Kabul airport during the deadly explosion, according to a statement from the Qatari foreign ministry.
Despite being a minor himself, the teenage boy took care of the child at the airport amid mass panic and chaos, the ministry said.
The boy’s father has been in Canada for two years now, though the rest of his family, including his mother and siblings, remain on the ground in Afghanistan.
According to The Globe and Mail, the father had been trying to find out what happened to his son after his child was separated from his family.
“I have no sleep for two weeks,” the father told the Canadian outlet. Now, he says, “I am happy, my children are also happy”.
Monday’s reunion was bittersweet, as the boy’s mother, four siblings and two cousins are still hiding, trying to find a way out of Afghanistan amid heightened concerns over a potential oppression of females in Kabul with the new Taliban government in office.
Canadian media reached out to his mother “who said over a text message this week that she initially thought all her children – including Ali – were killed that day, but then her two nephews re-emerged at the airport with four of their cousins.”
“When the blast is happening, all people are confused. The people went every where. I didn’t know where were my children,” she said.
According to the report, a senior official in Qatar’s foreign ministry said his government is ready to help the family in Afghanistan if needed.
However, the departure could be challenging for the Afghan family since the Taliban is only allowing people holding foreign passports and travel documents to leave the country.
The three-year-old was one of about 3,700 airlifted by Canadian authorities before the Taliban halted evacuations.
Canada is expected to receive over 20,000 Afghans over the next year and a half, in efforts to protect groups that are considered endangered under new Taliban rule.
These include human-rights campaigners, female leaders, members of the LGBTQ community, religious minorities and immediate and extended families of those already in Canada.