Man takes sanctuary

<p>A quadriplegic refugee claimant who was to be deported to India yesterday has taken sanctuary in a Sikh Temple in Abbotsford.</p>


Quadriplegic refugee claimant was to be deported yesterday

A quadriplegic refugee claimant who was to be deported to India yesterday has taken sanctuary in a Sikh Temple in Abbotsford.


Laiber Singh, 48, has been struggling for nearly four years to get refugee status in Canada for political persecution in India. The government has refused his application and Friday ordered him to be deported.


Compounding the issue is the fact that Singh was paralyzed after suffering an aneurism last August, just weeks after arriving in Vancouver from Montreal.


Singh is in a wheelchair, can’t feed himself, and needs kidney dialysis every few days.

Harsha Walia works with No One is Illegal, one of several immigrant and disability rights groups lobbying the federal government to grant Singh refugee status.

“His situation is symptomatic of the struggles for justice for so many refugees,” she said. “(The system) is really fundamentally flawed (if) I can appeal a parking ticket but a refugee’s fate lies in the hands of one person.

“Anyone who wants to live in dignity should be able to do so.”

Singh has been living for the past four months at the George Pearson Centre, a long-term care facility for people with severe disabilities.

He won’t be able to pay for the 24-hour care he needs should he be deported to India.

Walia said while there’s nothing legally preventing the authorities from forcibly removing Singh from the temple, respecting sanctuary is a moral tradition that’s usually followed in Canada.

“He has a pending humanitarian and compassionate legal claim. You can be deported despite that. We’re asking that his file be reviewed immediately. It’s arbitrary to deport someone before they exhaust their legal avenues.”

Singh is receiving medical care while in sanctuary, although Walia said she’s unsure exactly how it’s being paid for and administered.

“He’s being deported because (The Immigration and Refugee Board) didn’t believe he was a credible refugee claimant although that’s a highly subjective assessment.

“His dignity resides in being able to remain here.”

Human rights groups and community members have pledged to support him through the duration of his sanctuary.

“We’re building community support, trying to get legal council and building pressure to get Minister Day to grant him a stay on humanitarian grounds,” said Walia.

Case notes

  • Singh was informed late last week that he was to be deported yesterday.

  • It will cost more than $70,000 to fly Singh to New Delhi on a private jet.

  • Singh, a widower, has four children in India. He worked as a labourer when he first arrived in Canada.

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