For Canadian refugees, the road is long and uncertain

Two women share the stories of fleeing their home countries

“It was a difficult time for us,” she says.

“The only thing we thought about was our kids. It felt like all the doors closed at the same time. We spent nine years in The United States and they denied our application. And we came here and it is the same. Imagine that … we lost our hope.”

The judge’s explanation for her decision was that she had heard a lot of similar cases from Colombia. The letter clarified that the proof Irene’s husband presented wasn’t strong enough to consider him or his family in danger. It also explained that they should have presented more evidence in their support.

Canada has a program in place for people who have being denied refugee status. They can apply for humanitarian and compassionate reasons. They also have the opportunity to apply for a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment.

The next step for Irene’s family was to consider if they qualify for humanitarian reasons. She described that people go through the application process to gain a little more time in Canada.

Mario Guilombo, the human rights program director from the Canadian Human Rights International Organization, helped Irene to gather all the documents and evidence she needed to send to the immigration office.

“I sent all the academic awards that I had of my son and my daughter, all the documents from my son’s school showing that my son is gifted. I sent everything that I had,” Irene said.

Many refugees take time resettling in a new country. For some, accepting new changes is a long journey. The most difficult part of being a refugee for Imabong was “the separation from loved ones (and) the culture — all this wasn’t in my vision of my future,” Imabong added.

In Imabong’s case, she applied for refugee status in 2007; she became a conventional refugee in 2009. A few months later, she applied for her permanent resident status.

Yet she had to struggle with homelessness. She stayed at YMCA for two years.

“The whole idea of the shelter for homeless people is to provide security, instead of sleeping on the street where anything could happen,” Imabong clarified.

Imabong never thought she would be separated from her family for ten years.

“People are fortunate enough not to come from countries where they don’t have to deal with these things,” imabong explained. “We don’t choose our countries or our agendas or race or anything like that,when you are ripped apart from your family or your culture.”

“Nobody wants a life where they have to flee due to war. Canada is a peaceful country. There is not oppression, it is at chance for better life.”

Six months after immigration sent Irene’s husband a letter, she says, “We thought that was our goodbye, when we arrived to our appointment everyone was with their luggage. My husband said to us … “well we did everything humanly possible.”

January 9, 2011 seemed a normal and calm day for Irene’s family. They woke up, they got ready, but the atmosphere was tense, explained Irene. “My husband was a control freak. He kept organizing all the documents. He was uptight.”

They entered the International Organization for Migrants, located outside the airport, the secretary received all the documents and checked if they had all the papers. They waited for ten minutes and then an immigration officer called Irene’s family name.

“We sat and the officer asked if we knew why we were there. We didn’t know which decision he was giving to us. He said to us ‘what do you think the decision is,’ she recalled.

The officer was calm. Irene remembers that the officer said to them, “‘let’s cut the cheese cake now.'”

The chance of getting an application approved based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds application is rare. Less than 20 per cent are approved. The immigration officer considers everything; how long have you been outside your country of birth, the best interest of the children, adaptability, etc.

“I don’t give this news often, I say this news rarely, I feel happy for you,” the immigration officer said to Irene and her husband.

Irene’s husband started to cry and she was in shock. The immigration officer told Irene’s son that they took the decision based on his academic achievements. And, that Canada likes to welcome people like him. They went to the Mandarin to celebrate their status as permanent residents.

Right now, Irene‘s son is studying computer science at the University of Toronto and Imabong is scheduled to graduate in the fall.

“It is not a life that most of us choose, I can’t imagine anyone choosing this life, it is choice of necessity,” Imabong emphasized.

About this article

By: Veronica Agudelo
Posted: Oct 7 2015 11:27 am
Filed under: News