A three-year-old Afghan boy has made it to Toronto, where his father lives, after leaving Kabul alone more than two weeks ago, Canadian news outlet The Globe and Mail reported.
The boy, whom The Globe identified with the pseudonym Ali for safety concerns for his family in Afghanistan, arrived in Canada on Monday after a 14-hour flight from Qatar.
He had survived the suicide blast near the airport that killed 175 people last month but became separated from his mother and four siblings who remain in Afghanistan.
The child spent two weeks in an orphanage in Qatar before travelling to Canada, accompanied by an official from the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM), according to the report.
“I have no sleep for two weeks,” the boy’s father, who has been living in Toronto for two years, told the Globe at the airport.
Canada, which was part of the US-led coalition that invaded Afghanistan in 2001, has pledged to resettle 20,000 vulnerable Afghans this year.
“Afghans have put their lives at great risk to support Canada in helping Afghans achieve significant democratic, human rights, education, health and security gains over the past 20 years,” Marc Garneau, Canada’s foreign minister, said in a statement last month. “We owe them a debt of gratitude and we will continue our efforts to bring them to safety.”
With US and allied troops withdrawing from the country, the Taliban took over Afghanistan last month, capturing Kabul on August 15 with President Ashraf Ghani fleeing.
The US military, which remained in control of the airport in Kabul until August 31, conducted a chaotic evacuation operation to airlift US citizens, third-country nationals and Afghan allies out of the country.
UNICEF, the UN agency for children, estimates that 300 unaccompanied minors were evacuated from Kabul last month to bases hosting refugees in Qatar, Germany and other countries.
UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore has called for swiftly identifying the minors and reuniting them with their families. She said they are “among the most vulnerable children in the world”.
“I can only imagine how frightened these children must have been to suddenly find themselves without their families as the crisis at the airport unfolded or as they were whisked away on an evacuation flight,” Fore said in a statement last week.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met a group of unaccompanied Afghan children during a visit to Ramstein Air Base in Germany earlier this month.
“Many, many, many Americans are really looking forward to welcoming you and having you come to the United States,” he told them.
US officials have said the country plans to take in 50,000 Afghan refugees.