Sanctuary Update Jan 2006
January 2: Abdelkader Belaouni in sanctuary in Montreal. St. Gabriel's is now one of at least five other churches in Canada sheltering refugees avoiding deportation.
Montreal, Qc. . On January 3, 2006, Abdelkader Belaouni will urge federal Immigration Minister Joseph Volpe to intervene so that he may remain in Canada at a press conference to be held at Saint Gabriel.s church in Montreal, where he has been given sanctuary. Mr. Belaouni is a blind man from Algeria who has been living in Montreal for close to three years.
Recognizing the importance of supporting Mr. Belaouni in his fight against the injustice of Citizenship and Immigration Canada.s decision to reject his application for refugee status, Saint Gabriel.s church in Montreal has offered him their hospitality. Father MacDonald has stated: "[It is] compassionate justice that we are looking for as opposed to any kind of legalistic justice"
Mr. Belaouni has a deportation order for January 5th, 2006. For him, deportation will mean losing the dignity, autonomy and security for which he has worked so hard to achieve since living in Montreal.
Mr. Belaouni.s adaptation to life in Montreal is particularly remarkable given that he has been displaced on two occasions already: firstly in Algeria where he endured the civil war and, secondly, in the post-9/11/2001 climate of the U.S.A., where he experienced the racist backlash against Arabs and Muslims. Moreover, his integration in Quebec and Canadian society is highlighted by the 32 letters of support he has received thus far, including reputed organizations such as: Committee to Aid Refugees, Montreal City Mission, Association Multi-ethnique pour
l'intégration des personnes handicapées, Welfare Rights, Services juridiques communautaires de Pointe St-Charles et Petite bourgogne.
Mr. Belaouni would be deported first to the U.S.A., where there is a very high risk of detention pending deportation back to Algeria. As a blind man with diabetes-related health problems, he would be particularly vulnerable in detention. Mr. Belaouni was victim of an unjust decision by CIC that rejected his application on Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds on October 24, 2005. This decision discriminated against Mr.Belaouni on the basis that he hadn.t been employed . something which neglects both the systemic discrimination against handicapped persons in general and the lack of access to employment opportunities as a result of the precariousness associated with not having legal status.
Recent media: http://www.cbc.ca/montreal/story/qc-aleria20060103.html
December 30, 2005: THE PORTNOY FAMILY
Angela Portnoy and her four children, Alon, 13, Mark, 7 (Canadian born), Anna-Marie, 4, and eight month old Valerie (Canadian born) remain in sanctuary at the basement of Sacred Heart Parish in Marystown, Newfoundland. Mr. Portnoy, however, is currently in Laval detention (just outside Montreal) after having left the church sanctuary on an emergency and got stopped for speeding. He is now facing a deportation on January 16, 2006. Angela (who is now pregnant) refused the offer to leave sanctuary, preferring to wait until a new H & C Application can be reviewed. An arrest warrant is issued for Angela, and the two children (Alon and Anna- Marie). The CBSA has advised that they will not arrest the children and they free to travel to school and community events.
More information visit www.supporttheportnoyfamily.ca
Deportation orders stayed in Ayele family and Samsu Mia sanctuary cases in December 2004; the Vega family in Jan 2005 and the Ayoubs in Feb 2005.
Deportation orders stayed in two sanctuary cases
By INGRID PERITZ
Globe and Mail
Wednesday, December 15, 2004 - Page A15
MONTREAL -- Immigration Minister Judy Sgro has given a reprieve to five people who had been sheltered for prolonged stays in two churches, a move seen as an attempt to defuse the thorny issue of church sanctuary. The Ayele family in Montreal and Samsu Mia in Ottawa have both been holed up since the summer of 2003, refusing to leave their sanctuaries for fear of being deported. Both had the opportunity this week to breathe fresh air and walk outdoors freely for the first time.
"I want to thank God, thank [Ms. Sgro], and thank each and every Canadian," said Menen Ayele, an Ethiopian woman who was given sanctuary at the Union United Church in Montreal with her three school-age children.
Refugee groups say they're hopeful Ms. Sgro's decision to suspend deportation orders in the two cases and grant temporary residency signals an attempt to resolve other outstanding sanctuary cases. Eight people are in sanctuary in four churches of varying denominations across the country, according to the Interfaith Sanctuary Coalition; three are in Montreal and one is in Vancouver. "Minister Sgro was courageous and compassionate and we commend her for her position," said Heather Macdonald, a representative of the United Church of Canada, who met with Ms. Sgro in Toronto on Monday.Ms. Macdonald said churches assured the minister that giving Mr. Mia and the Ayeles a break would not open the floodgates to other would-be immigrants hoping for the same outcome. "We see it as a last resort." But it's also emotionally and psychologically exhausting. So we know it's not an answer." Advocacy groups have been pressing Ms. Sgro to find a resolution to the sanctuary cases, and discussions began last summer. The advocates say the presence of people in sanctuary crystallizes the failures of Canada's refugee-determination process.
"If there were an actual appeal mechanism [in Canada's refugee determination system], most of these cases wouldn't have to consider sanctuary," said Montreal lawyer Rick Goldman, a spokesman for the Interfaith Sanctuary Coalition. Ms. Sgro intervened in the two cases because of their "exceptional circumstances," a spokeswoman for the minister said yesterday. She would not elaborate.
Vega Family Free at Last
THE INTERFAITH SANCTUARY COALITION
Press Conference on Monday, February 14 for the Liberation of the Vega Family after 19 Months in Sanctuary
Montreal , February 13, 2005 - Alvaro, Mireya and Marcela Vega are free at long last. The Colombian couple and their daughter, who have been in Sanctuary in Montreal's St. Andrew's-Norwood United Church since July 17, 2003, have received a positive decision from Immigration Canada on their application for permanent residence based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. They can now leave the church basement that has been their home, without fear of deportation to Colombia. Rev. Rosemary Lambie-Bromby of the United Church expressed her delight with this decision, noting however that it is "very unfortunate that the family had to be in sanctuary 567 days before the cries of the people were taken seriously". This is the second of three Montreal sanctuary cases to be resolved recently, following the release of the Ayele family in December 2004. Though the Vegas, along with their supporters, celebrate their newfound freedom, they hope for a similar resolution to the case of the Ayoub family of three elderly Palestinians, living in sanctuary in an NDG Roman Catholic Church for the past year.
The Interfaith Sanctuary Coalition also calls for the immediate return to Canada of Mohamed Cherfi, who was forcibly removed from sanctuary in a Quebec City church and handed over to U.S. authorities last year. Mr. Cherfi is awaiting final approval of a group sponsorship which would allow him to return to Canada. If it is not approved immediately, he could face deportation to Algeria - where he faces the risk of torture - any time after February 15th. This was the first case ever in which Canadian officials violated the principle of sanctuary.
The Interfaith Sanctuary Coalition is an umbrella group of more than 40 church, human rights, labour, refugee and other groups as well as individuals that have come together to support the individuals and families currently in sanctuary in Canada. The Coalition also supports the implementation of a right of appeal for refused refugee claimants so that decision-making errors can be corrected without the need for sanctuary.
AYOUB Family Liberated!
The Struggle Against PALESTINIAN DEPORTATIONS Continues
Montreal, Monday, February 27th, 2005 --- After taking sanctuary at the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce church in Montreal more than one-year ago, the Ayoub family - Khalil Ayoub, 67, Nabih Ayoub, 69 and Thérèse Boulos Haddad, 62 - have won their battle to remain in Canada. This past Sunday, after the church service at the congregation of the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce church, the Palestinian Refugee Support Committee of the Notre-Dame de Grace Church publicly declared the news of the Ayoub families' acceptance, to a cheering congregation and supporters from the Coalition Against the Deportation of Palestinian Refugees who had gathered at the church.
In the context of this concrete victory, the Coalition Against the Deportation of Palestinian Refugees stresses the importance of continuing to build public support and solidarity with ongoing struggle of more-than 100 Palestinian refugees, who continue to face deportation from Canada. The Ayoub family's victory brings a sense of hope and inspiration to the ongoing struggle of these Palestinian refugees against the crisis of deportation in their community created by the policies of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC).
The Ayoub family, whose Application for Permanent Residence on
Humanitarian and Compassionate Grounds in Canada has been officially accepted by CIC, will continue to live at the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce church for the near future. They must now attempt to piece back-together their lives in Montreal, which were torn-apart when Immigration Canada issued a deportation order for the family in January 2004. It was more than one-year ago that the Ayoub family publicly announced to the people of Montreal, Canada and the world their decision to defy the deportation order issued by CIC. Under imminent threat of deportation to a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, the Ayoub family were forced to take sanctuary. During the year the family spent in sanctuary, they became a living symbol of the ongoing struggle against Palestinian deportations from Canada.
Today, more than 100 Palestinian refugees in Canada face imminent deportation. Like the Ayoub family, most of the refugees are from the refugee camps of Lebanon and many are also from the Occupied Territories. Their claims for refugee status in Canada have been systematically rejected in recent years and have fallen subject to CIC draconian policies of detention and deportation. As the Ayoub families' declares victory in their struggle against deportation and for status in Canada, the Coalition Against the Deportation of Palestinian Refugees, has outlined various ways in which people can concretely support the ongoing fight against Palestinian deportations. Your solidarity and support for this struggle is needed more now than ever, given that there are Palestinian refugees who continue to face immanent deportation within the coming months.
Who is in Sanctuary, October 2004
OCT 17, 2004
SANCTUARY WEEK ACROSS CANADA
Second Year in Sanctuary Intolerable: Churches declare Sanctuary Week across Canada for October 17-24
Appalled that several people have now entered a second year living in sanctuary, churches across Canada have declared a Sanctuary Week from October 17th to 24th. The United Church of Canada, which is currently offering sanctuary in two of the five known cases, has called upon its congregations across the country to devote a part of their weekly prayer services to the issue of sanctuary, to invite local MPs to attend the services, and to write the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to ask for a solution for the current sanctuary cases, as well as for the implementation of a right of appeal for refugee claimants, in order to prevent the need for recourse to sanctuary. The right of appeal was passed by parliament in 2002, but the government has refused to implement it.
WHO IS CURRENTLY IN SANCTUARY?
Contrary to what the Canadian government would like us to believe, churches do not offer sanctuary to just anybody who requests it and they do not want to spread the movement. Cases are thoroughly evaluated and accepted only if there is a serious threat to the refugee's life or security and there is no other possible solution.
Right now, there are 5 families (or individuals) in sanctuary in Canada. Some of them have been in sanctuary for more than a year!
A Colombian family has been in St. Andrew's-Norwood United Church in St-Laurent since 17 July 2003 (a couple with their daughter). The father was an outspoken labour and environmental rights advocate in Colombia and bears visible signs of torture.
A family has been in Union United Church in Montreal since 5 August 2003 (a mother with her 3 children). The three children, ages 7, 12 and 14 are now facing their second year out of school.
Three elderly Palestinians are in Notre Dame de Grace Roman Catholic Church in Montreal. They fled life in a refugee camp in Lebanon. Like all Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, they faced systematic discrimination and denial of rights. They are stateless. The Immigration and Refugee Board agreed they faced persecution in their camp, but said they should have tried another refugee camp rather than come to Canada.
A 49 year-old man from Bangladesh is in First Unitarian Church in Ottawa. He suffered physical abuse at the hands of his government's officials. Amnesty International has intervened in his case and states that his security would be endangered if he were returned to Bangladesh.
An Iranian man is in St. Michael's Anglican Church in Vancouver He was imprisoned and tortured in Iran. His mother has actually been accepted as a refugee in Canada, even though their fear of persecution is based on the same situation: the husband/father was an outspoken leader of an Iranian opposition party. In addition, the son has undergone a religious conversion which adds to the risks he faces in Iran.
Had there been a right of appeal available in any of these cases, the errors made could have been corrected and the need for sanctuary avoided.
And let us not forget Mohamed Cherfi, from Algeria, who was in sanctuary at a Quebec City church and was forcibly removed and deported to the United States. This is the only known case of a violation of sanctuary by the Canadian government.
Mr. Cherfi has been held in detention in the U.S. since his deportation. An attempt is being made to secure his return to Canada through a collective sponsorship organized by the church where he was in sanctuary. However, it is not known if this will be processed in time to avoid his deportation from the U.S. to Algeria.
Demands of Sanctuary Campaign
WHAT WE ARE ASKING IMMIGRATION MINISTER SGRO:
Put in place the long overdue appeal process and solve the sanctuary cases!
We are deeply concerned that, because of flaws in the refugee determination system, people whose lives and safety are in jeopardy currently face deportation from Canada. In failing to protect some refugees, Canada is not meeting its moral and legal obligations.
Errors in refugee determination are occurring which the system cannot correct because the government has not implemented the appeal on the merits provided by the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Uncorrected errors can mean that a person is sent back to torture, death or other forms of persecution.
We call on the Canadian government to protect refugees in Canada by ensuring that all claimants have access to a fair hearing before a well-qualified decision-maker, by implementing the appeal on the merits and by offering a meaningful review of the cases of refused claimants currently in Canada whose claims appear to have been wrongly rejected.
Declaration supported by:
United Church of Canada, Unitarian Universalist Church of Canada, Social Ministry of the Archdiocese of Montreal, Canadian Conference of Bishops Episcopal Commission for Social Affairs, Anglican Church of Canada, Canadian Islamic Congress, Centre Justice et Foi, B'Nai Brith Canada, Canadian Council for Refugees, Colombianos Unidos, McGill Refugee Research Project, Ligue des Droits et Libertés, Canadian Labour Congress, Réseau oecuménique justice et paix, Concertation Comprendre et Agir pour une paix juste, Primate's World Relief and Development Fund , and many others...
Supporting those in Sanctuary
WRITE A LETTER/ CALL/ OR FAX: see below for sample letter
The Honourable Judy Sgro, P.C., M.P.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 1L1
The Honourable Anne McLellan, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
c/o Solicitor General of Canada
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
2) MAKE A DONATION: There are significant costs associated with sanctuary, such as food and other necessities. Please do consider a donation.
3) STAY IN TOUCH: Various support groups will continue to pressure the government and raise awareness, in conjunction with the wishes those in sanctuary around the country.
Dear Honourable Ministers:
I am writing urgently to bring to your attention the case of those in sanctuary.
I am asking that you cancel all removal orders against them and that they be granted residency in Canada. There are very compelling humanitarian reasons to grant them status in Canada. They all risk torture, death or other forms of persecution if sent back. Canada is a signatory to the Convention Against Torture and the Convention for the Protection of Refugees, as well as various other human rights instruments. I ask that you think of the children who have suffered so much already, yet retain so much hope.
The lack of a proper appeals procedure on the merits of refugee asylum claims is a further argument in favour of those in sanctuary. The previous Immigration Minister publicly announced and promised a fair and impartial appeals procedure, as part of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Still, no basic appeals procedure exists, to the detriment of all refugee claimants.
The cases of those in sanctuary have probably been reported in their respective countries, which increases the danger to them if deported against their will.
Honourable Ministers, you both have it within your power to correct this situation.