Category Archives: Refugees

CALGARY: Fariborz Birjandian, head of Calgary Catholic Immigration society, thinks Canada should take in more Syrian refugees

October 10, 2014 7:20 pm

Refugee families now call Calgary home thanks to local help

By  and   Global News

It’s been a year since Fadi Yacoub and his family fled from war-torn Syria to Lebanon.

Once in Lebanon they applied for refugee status, and a year later Calgary is their home.

Yacoub says the year-long wait was well worth it.

“I’m happy that I’m here,” he says. “I want a good future for my kids; it’s been four years that they didn’t go to school. “

There are currently more than three million Syrian refugees in the world, a number that climbs daily.

Yacoub’s wife, Ralda, knows how lucky her family is.

Canada, I heard from a lot of people that it’s a safe place, “says Ralda. “Thank god now that I’m here, I feel like my life is back again.”

While the family is grateful, the transition from Syria to Canada has had its challenges. Their daughter Perla is still adjusting to life in Calgary. Continue reading

HALIFAX: Shia-Muslim family claims will be persecuted if deported to Iran

Halifax family could be deported to country they’ve never visited

Federal Court of Canada hears unusual refugee case

By Richard Cuthbertson, CBC News Posted: Sep 10, 2014 5:28 PM AT Last Updated: Sep 10, 2014 5:28 PM AT

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/halifax-family-could-be-deported-to-country-they-ve-never-visited-1.2762152

A family living in Halifax is fighting to stay in Canada as refugees. They say they fear they will be deported to Iran, a country they’ve never visited. (CBC)

A family living in Halifax is facing deportation after their refugee claim was rejected earlier this year — but in an unusual twist, they could be sent to a country they’ve never even visited.

Abbas Gholami, his wife Fatemeh Naserian Mochadam, and their five children arrived in Canada a couple of years ago. All family members were born and lived in Kuwait. However, due to family ties they are citizens of Iran.

They say they left Kuwait after years of threatening phone calls from two of Mochadam’s cousins, according to documents filed in the Federal Court of Canada. Mochadam is of Arab descent and says her 1995 marriage to her husband, who is Persian, was viewed as shameful by some relatives who threatened to kill them.

But in February, an Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada tribunal rejected the family’s refugee claim. The Gholamis now face removal from Canada — not to Kuwait, but to Iran, where none of them have lived or visited.

The family is fighting the tribunal’s decision. At a Federal Court hearing in Halifax on Wednesday, the Gholamis’ lawyer argued the family could face persecution if they are sent to Iran.

Scott McGirr says the family identifies as Arab and can’t even speak Farsi, the language of Iran. Arabs, he argues, are discriminated against in Iran.

“Arabs in Iran run a very real risk of persecution,” McGirr told the court.

A federal government lawyer acknowledged this is a “bit of an unusual case,” but argued Wednesday the court should uphold the tribunal’s finding that the Gholamis aren’t refugees.

Government lawyer Patricia MacPhee questioned the veracity of claims by the Gholamis that they faced years of harassment from Mochadam’s cousins. She says the tribunal did not believe the threatening phone calls would have lasted nearly two decades.

She notes that while the family may consider itself Arab, they are also Shia Muslims, the dominant religion in Iran. There is no evidence, MacPhee says, the family would face persecution.

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Author Erna Paris calls Canada “mean-minded” toward refugees

Canadian mean-mindedness is back

ERNA PARIS

Special to The Globe and Mail

Published 

Last updated 

A new edition of Erna Paris’s book From Tolerance to Tyranny: A Cautionary Tale from Fifteenth-Century Spain will be published in January.

In 1979 and 1980, the government of Canada admitted 50,000 Vietnamese refugees. Ordinary Canadians were invited to participate in the boat people program. My parents and our extended relatives and friends raised enough money to sponsor a family. They were diligent workers: Before long, they were driving a better car than we were.

We did this because we remembered that a meaner Canada had refused entry to a shipload of desperate Jewish refugees from Nazism 40 years before.

That prewar mean-mindedness is back. Canada’s refugee determination system needed updating, but the Harper government has gone much too far. It has been accused of breaching international law, breaching the Constitution, and – just as important – breaching the values Canadians have defined themselves by.

Some recent examples: Last month, a 65-year-old Pakistani woman who fled to Canada because she had been accused of adultery and faced death by stoning was deported. She had appealed to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which advised Ottawa to delay the deportation until it could review her case under the UN Convention Against Torture, which Canada signed in 1985.

According to Amnesty International, our government’s patent disregard for international law will weaken its claim to be a global defender of human rights.

In July, Justice Anne MacTavish of the Federal Court ruled that the government’s cuts to health care for failed refugee claimants constituted “cruel and unusual treatment.” Denying health care puts the lives of vulnerable people at risk in a manner that “outrages our standards of decency” and is unconstitutional, she wrote. Clearly piqued, the Harper government announced this week that it would appeal the judge’s decision. It also asked the appeal court to delay enforcement of the order to resume health care until the appeal had been heard. That could be months. Continue reading

OTTAWA: Gloucester-Southgate candidate Meladul Haq Ahmadzai wants to implement Islamic rules at city hall

Candidates have some wacky notions 

ron-corbettBY , OTTAWA SUN

FIRST POSTED: | UPDATED: 

If Mike Maguire can sit down yet — after the thorough spanking he received this week over his transit plan — I want him to know the worst is probably behind him.

And for what it’s worth, when Election Day comes around, I don’t think his transit plan will be seen as the worst idea of the campaign.

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Why just this week a candidate in Gloucester-Southgate sent out a press release saying he would adopt sharia law at city hall if he were elected.

Meladul Haq Ahmadzai says sharia law would “restore transparency and accountability at city hall.”

Not a lot of reporters attended his sharia law press conference, nor has Ahmadzai been interviewed all that often, despite his press releases always ending with the cheerful reminder that “the media is welcome to ask questions.” Continue reading

BRAMPTON, ONT.: Irena Ratmanski, mother of drunkard on Sunwing flight, facing seventh deportation from Canada

Mom of Sunwing accused faces seventh deportation

SAM PAZZANO, QMI AGENCY

Last Updated: 7:14 AM ET

BRAMPTON, Ont. — The mother of a Toronto-area woman whose alleged unruly behaviour forced a Cuba-bound Sunwing flight back to Toronto is in jail and facing her seventh deportation from Canada, QMI Agency has learned.

Irena Ratmanski, 56, was denied bail Wednesday by Justice of the Peace Ralph Cotter.

Ratmanski was charged in July with four Immigration and Refugee Protection Act offences, including re-entering the country unlawfully, failing to advise officers of previous deportations and some misrepresentations, including denying having a daughter, Lilia Ratmanski, 25, and failing to reveal other aliases.

Five weeks ago, Irena Ratmanski sat in a courtroom and then fled from media scrutiny before her daughter Lilia, of Whitby, Ont., and her friend, Milana Muzikante,26, of Maple, Ont., were freed on bail. They were accused of making threats, endangering the safety of an aircraft and mischief after allegedly drinking and smoking in the aircraft bathroom on the Aug. 27 flight to Cuba.

“(Irena Ratmanski) has a history of being removed … and finding her way back in despite not being authorized to do so,” said Cotter in rejecting Ratmanski’s bail application.

“She is making a mockery of the integrity of our borders. She knows the chances of being deported again are very high,” A. M. Coke, an agent for the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, told court in opposing Ratmanski’s release.

“She has nothing to lose by fleeing.”

TORONTO: Refugee from Burma ends up working for the Karen community

From there to here: Burmese refugee loves Canada’s respect for human rights
For Mie Tha Lah, part of the persecuted Karen minority in Burma, Canada’s respect for human rights is one of his adopted home’s best features.

Mie Tha Lah, a 37-year-old refugee from Burma, now known as Myanmar, is a youth worker for the Jane/ Finch Community and Family Centre. When he arrived in Canada and saw the CN Tower he knew his dream for freedom was complete.

DEBRA BLACK / TORONTO STAR Order this photo

By: Debra Black Immigration Reporter, Published on Thu Jan 30 2014

More than 240,000 immigrants are expected to arrive in Canada this year. Many will settle in the GTA. For some, their dreams may take years to build. For others, those dreams may never materialize.
To explore that experience, the Star is publishing an occasional series in the words of newcomers, both recent and more established. If you would like to tell your story, email dzblack@thestar.ca
Mie Tha Lah, a 37-year-old Burmese refugee, came to Canada in 2007 after the country’s doors were opened to members of the minority Karen community, who had been targeted by the government. Lah now works as a settlement worker with the Jane/Finch Community and Family Centre and is an accredited court interpreter.
Before coming to Canada with his wife, originally from the Philippines, his parents and siblings, he spent about 13 years in a refugee camp on the border between Thailand and Burma. While there, Lah received a scholarship to attend a Catholic university in the Philippines, where he studied education. Continue reading

TORONTO: Randall Baran-Chong of HanVoice hoping to see Canadian sponsorship program for North Koreans

What’s Keeping Door Shut to North Koreans Seeking Haven in Canada?

Group says progress on sponsorships slowed since new immigration minister appointed.

By Jeremy J. Nuttall, 23 Sep 2014, TheTyee.ca

Randall Baran-Chong in Vancouver: His organization HanVoice seeks to match 100 North Koreans with welcoming Canadian families.

A group that advocates on behalf of North Korean refugees says it believes it is close to establishing a sponsorship program making it easier for those who originated from the oppressive country to come to Canada.

Toronto organization HanVoice said it has been in talks with the federal government — mainly the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration — for some time and almost came to a firm proposal under former minister Jason Kenney.

The Tyee reported on Sept. 11 that Canada has not given a single North Korean refugee claimant status in Canada this year, compared to 230 in 2012.

The revelation came 10 months after current Immigration Minister Chris Alexander successfully challenged the granting of a North Korean woman and her child refugee status.

Since then, no North Korean has been granted refugee protection as the decision essentially shut the door to them, according to critics.

But Randall Baran-Chong of HanVoice said his group hopes to change the situation by establishing a program whereby Canadians can sponsor North Koreans for immigration.

He said progress has been slower since Alexander took over the immigration portfolio in July 2013 and he’s hoping with the opening of Parliament progress can be made. Continue reading

MONTREAL: Khurshid Begum Awan wants to remain in Canada claiming that Lahore is not safe for Shia Muslims

CTV Montreal 
Published Monday, September 22, 2014 7:50PM EDT

A Montreal woman is pleading with Immigration Canada to allow her mother to stay in Canada.

Khurshid Begum Awan has been living in a Montreal church for a year to avoid being deported to Pakistan, but a heart condition has now forced her to be admitted to hospital.

“When I went to the immigration officer, he told me you have to respect the law, I said, ‘Okay I will respect the law.’ But when they said, ‘We’re going to send your mom back,’ that I have no answer (for) so I said okay,” said Awan’s daughter Tahira Malik, through tears, at a news conference Monday.

Awan first came to Canada with her husband in the spring of 2011

Their refugee claim was rejected. Her husband was deported to Pakistan in 2013 but Awan’s deportation was postponed, because doctors determined she was too ill to leave the country.

Last fall, Awan took refuge with the Anglican Church of Montreal.

Bishop Barry Bryan Clarke of the Anglican Diocese of Montreal said they were told they were breaking the law but felt there were few other options.

(…)

If Awan is sent back, her family said she won’t receive the medical care she needs and she will be targeted for being a Shia, a Muslim minority.

Lahore, which used to be a place in the past where you could get some peace, is now a place which is a centre of extremism. There’s very serious violence in the past two years,” said immigration lawyer Stewart Istvanffy. Continue reading

TORONTO: Syrian Kurd claims Canadian officials “don’t care about Syrians”

Canada missed the deadline to reunite a Syrian family, so Sweden stepped in

Mike Wise of North York sold his home to get his mother and younger sister close to Canada. But federal foot-dragging meant they ended up in Sweden.

By: Peter Goodspeed Special to the Star, Published on Fri Sep 19 2014

Mike Wise sold his Toronto home two years ago to rescue his mother in war-torn Syria. He thought he had bought her freedom when she and Wise’s younger sister arrived in Cuba, just a three and a half hour flight from Toronto.

What he didn’t count on was Canada’s reluctance to offer sanctuary to Syrian war refugees.

Despite Wise’s five months of intense lobbying and appeals to senior cabinet ministers, officials refused to expedite his request to have his ailing, widowed mother, Shazia Khail Rashid, 66, and his sister, Sivin, 30, join him and three other brothers in Canada.

Instead, officials with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had to call on Sweden to rescue Wise’s family.

Now, a once close family is scattered around the world.

In March 2012, Wise, a Syrian Kurd called Mustafa Arab before he legally changed his name last year, was chairman of the GTA branch of the newly formed Syrian Canadian Council. He regularly led protests in Toronto against the blood-stained regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

As similar protests in Syria descended into civil war, Wise regularly telephoned his mother and sister in the country’s largest city, Aleppo, to make sure they were safe.

During one call in April 2012, he knew he had to act quickly to rescue them.

(…)

At the time, Cuba had one of the few embassies still functioning in Syria, and Wise managed to find a go-between who arranged to get his mother and sister Cuban tourist visas — for a total of $12,000. Continue reading

EDMONTON: Refugees facing “unprecedented” challenges finding affordable places to rent

Low vacancy rates ramp up challenges for new refugees in Edmonton

By Andrea Huncar, CBC News Posted: Sep 19, 2014 7:00 AM MT Last Updated: Sep 19, 2014 7:00 AM MT

Refugees arriving in Edmonton are facing “unprecedented” challenges finding affordable places to rent, says an agency that works with newcomers.

“People are paying regularly 50 to 85 and sometimes even up to 90 per cent of their income going towards rent,” said Kathryn Friesen, program manager with Catholic Social Services.

Refugee families receive a monthly allowance from Ottawa for up to a year after moving to Canada. If they have children, they also qualify for the Child Tax Benefit.

But high rents exacerbate an already challenging situation, said Friesen.

She said refugees eager to succeed are instead forced to leave important English language and skill training to take on two or three jobs in order to make ends meet, while some of their children even drop out to work.

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It’s a financial struggle that can also lead to health problems or re-traumatize those who have endured war or torture, she said.

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“We don’t want people to arrive and be crushed by challenges that seem insurmountable.”

‘A good place to stay’

Abdurashid Osman Adan, his wife and four children moved to Edmonton from South Africa in April.

“It’s a good place to stay,” said Adan, who is excited to be upgrading his skills and English so he can get to work.

“And we are glad for Canada to give us a resettlement. Everything’s alright.”

Adan is unwaveringly upbeat, despite the hardships he has faced. For the first three months after he arrived, he had just 138 dollars left over for food and necessities after he paid rent.

“It was very difficult – the life. But you know, I’ve got some friends here in Edmonton so that I just borrow some stuff from them so that when I receive the tax … I’m going to pay back them. ”

Even now that his Child Tax Benefits have kicked in, rent still gobbles up more than half of his total income.

Adan’s friends continue to help him out by supplying halal meat from their shop, as well as rides and clothing. He also still relies on the Edmonton Food Bank.

Low vacancy rate creates additional challenges

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At 1.4 per cent, Edmonton’s vacancy rate is one of the lowest in the country.

High rents continue to be driven up by an influx of newcomers, with fewer units existing today than 15 years ago, said Jay Freeman, executive director of Housing and Homelessness with the City of Edmonton.

More than 50 new affordable housing units, currently under construction at 127th Street and 144th Avenue, will become available next month, said Freeman.

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