Taxi driver Nisreen Ahamed Mohamed Nilam fled Sri Lanka almost a decade ago and successfully claimed refugee status, but he’s still waiting to become a full Canadian citizen because his case is snarled in a changes to immigration policy, CBC News reported.
Nilam, 36, came to Vancouver during a raging civil war in his home country in 2008.
His lawyer says he followed the rules when he made two return trips home, but now that Canada’s immigration laws have changed, he’s caught in a legal limbo.
“He’s a law-abiding refugee who is now being told to get lost,” said Doug Cannon, who has filed for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, questioning whether or not refugees are equal to other immigrants.
The case could affect hundreds of other refugees impacted by legislative changes made by the Conservative government in 2012.
Those changes allow the government to revoke permanent residency status for settled refugees, if the person travels back to their home country, uses their old passport or applies for a new passport.
The rules are based on the fact that a refugee fleeing from a dangerous situation needs Canada’s protection and can’t return to their home.
Nilam fled fearing the persecution of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, flying to the U.S. and crossing into B.C. on foot near the Peace Arch border crossing in 2008.
He says that when the civil war was over three years later, he returned home twice to visit his ailing mother and then to get married.
When he returned from his trip with his new wife, they dreamed of starting a family in Vancouver.
Border guards offered them good wishes as they entered Canada.
But in the meantime, changes to the law allowed officials to reopen asylum files.
Then Immigration Minister Jason Kenny promised this would help catch frauds and fakes.
But immigration experts say instead “cessation applications” create fear and clog the refugee hearing system.
Cannon says the focus on pushing people out suggests “refugees really are just opportunists — or they are a constant burden on our society, and we should get rid of as many as we can.
“Like that kind of stuff is just nonsense.”
Nilam only learned he was being flagged for his earlier trips home after writing his citizenship tests in 2015 and awaiting word of the date for his swearing-in ceremony.
Cannon says immigration officials secretly set Nilam’s file aside.
“When he came to me, he was baffled,” said Cannon, describing his client’s shock at being barred from citizenship.
Nilam’s wife, Fathima, 30, has obtained permanent residency status — but Nilam may now be deported, despite living in Vancouver, working as a taxi driver, paying taxes like a “model citizen,” says his lawyer. (Colombo Gazette)