Exchange program cancelled after Afghan students flee U.S. for Canada - after watching scores of students flee to Canada -
The United States government has quietly scrapped a popular exchange program for teens from Afghanistan after watching scores of students flee to Canada as refugees rather than return home.
The defections from the State Department's Youth Exchange and Study (YES) initiative have been occurring since 2005, the second year the program was offered. But they reached the breaking point this year when more than half of the 40 Afghans brought in to attend U.S. high schools vanished.
A Toronto Star investigation has tracked a number of those students to refugee shelters in Fort Erie, Ont., high schools in St. Catharines, universities and provincial government jobs in Toronto, apartments in Burnaby, B.C., and elsewhere in Canada. The newest arrivals are collecting welfare as they attend school and work their way through the immigration system.
The first ones to have fled to Canada give a measure of their potential contributions to their new country. When Ghufran Tarin disappeared from his American host family in 2006, he mused that he wanted to serve Canada as an ambassador.
Tarin, who declined to be interviewed, went to Ryerson University to study business. There he won scholarships and became vice-president of his student union and a counsellor to international students. He is a summer student at the Ontario Finance Ministry.
Partly out of embarrassment and partly out of frustration from seeing federal money go to waste, Washington suspended the YES program this year, denying visa applications for Afghans who were set to arrive in America this fall.
“A year pause is appropriate,” a State Department official in Washington said. “The circumstances might change once people realize that this ... can't be taken for granted as a route for immigration.”