Category Archives: Refugees

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.

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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.

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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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TORONTO: Slovak Roma asylum seeker Janette Ganova claims botched swastikas carved on her back by “two neo-Nazi skinheads”

 

Close-up of the swastikas on refugee claimant Janette Ganova’s back, submitted to the Immigration and Refugee Board.

Who carved two swastikas on Roma refugee’s body?

Would a Czech Roma asylum seeker be so desperate to get accepted in Canada that she’d carve two swastikas in her back to fool a refugee judge?

By:  Immigration reporter, Published on Sun Sep 07 2014

Would a Czech Roma asylum seeker be so desperate to get accepted in Canada that she’d carve two swastikas in her back to fool a refugee judge?

While Janette Ganova said the markings were cut by two neo-Nazi skinheads who kidnapped her in Zatec, Czech Republic, her now-estranged husband allegedly wrote a “poison pen letter” to immigration officials claiming that her injuries were self-inflicted.

After four hearings that stretched over two years and ended in July, the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) couldn’t determine the culprits who did the crime, but rejected the Toronto woman’s claim because her evidence was inconsistent and there’s enough protection in Czech Republic for Roma. Continue reading

Immigration lawyer Phil Rankin criticizes detention conditions of refugees in Canada

Those held for long periods can suffer serious consequences: UN

BY TARA CARMAN, VANCOUVER SUN AUGUST 29, 2014

A handcuffed man wearing an orange jumpsuit is escorted to a hearing by a uniformed guard. He has been transported from a provincial jail.

One could be forgiven for thinking that the man is a criminal. But in fact, such treatment is routine for those being held in immigration detention, even though they have not committed a crime.

Such was the case last week for Osman De Leon Reyes, a Surrey father of two who has no known criminal record. He faces deportation to Guatemala next week, where his family says he will be killed. Continue reading

Domestic violence acceptable reason to keep Mexican woman in Canada

Mexican woman in Montreal facing deportation to remain in Canada

CBCCBC – Sun, 24 Aug, 2014

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Citizenship and Immigration Canada has stayed Sheila Sedinger Ayala’s removal order.

“It feels amazing,” Sedinger Ayala told CBC news. “Now I can concentrate on celebrating my daughter’s birthday which is this Saturday, the day I was going to be deported.”

Sedinger Ayala, 27, was initially ordered to be deported back to Mexico after her refugee claim sponsor  — her husband — was convicted of a criminal offence.

Her two Canadian-born children would  have stayed behind in Canada if the deportation went ahead.

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The decision comes one day after an immigrant rights group hosted a news conference for Sedinger Ayala on Sunday.

With her fiancé by her side, Sedinger Ayala sobbed while she explained what had happened to her and why she should be granted temporary residency to allow her to stay in Canada while she sorts out her affairs.

Sedinger Ayala said she moved to Montreal from Mexico City in 2005, fleeing from a violent ex-boyfriend.

She had one child within a year of arriving in Canada — a product of gang rape while in Mexico, said Sedinger Ayala’s lawyer Angela Potvin.

She later met and married a man in Montreal with whom she had another child. She said he sponsored her bid for permanent residency and in 2008, the federal and provincial governments accepted her sponsorship application.

However, Potvin said the sponsor was found guilty of physical assault during the course of Sedinger Ayala’s sponsorship application, which in turn made him ineligible to sponsor her. She said the conviction cancelled her permanent residency bid.

Canada must rethink immigration and refugee policies

Immigrants, refugees and the poor: Rethinking compassion

July 26, 2014. 8:20 am • Section: The Search

Many Canadians make the case for compassion when they maintain the country should retain one of the world’s most generous rates for welcoming immigrants and refugees.

Canadians’ hearts go out when they hear about people struggling in countries like Guatemala, the Philippines, India and Lebanon. We tend to believe Canada has a duty to offer a better life.

Many Canadians want to be especially kind when they read about conflict-ravaged countries like Syria, Iraq, Burma, Sudan and Libya. Surely richer countries can embrace more of these suffering people?

It’s an understandable feeling. Compassion is key to virtually every spiritual world view and most secular philosophies. And there is no doubt many people are facing unimaginable hardship — particularly the roughly one billion at the bottom of the global economy. Continue reading

Hungarian Roma human traffickers deported from Canada

Josh Elliott, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, July 22, 2014 10:48AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, July 22, 2014 2:56PM EDT

The federal government has announced that 20 members of a large human trafficking ring based out of Hamilton, Ont. have been deported from Canada.

The 20 deported individuals were members of the Domotor-Kolompar ring and helped run the largest proven human trafficking ring in Canada, according to the statement put out by the border agency. As of Tuesday, at least 22 members of this ring have been convicted on human trafficking charges, the BSA has confirmed. All but two were deported.

The Domotor-Kolompar family brought Hungarians from their hometown to Canada with the promise of work and a better life in the Hamilton area, Canadian officials said. But the Hungarians who came over were subjected to brutal living conditions without adequate food and forced to work construction jobs for free. The human traffickers used intimidation and threats of violence to keep their victims in line, officials said.

“This flagrant abuse of persons in our immigration system demanded a strong response,” Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said in a news conference Tuesday. Continue reading