Children leave sanctuary to attend school

Posted by admin on Feb 19th, 2007

CBC News, 19 February 2007

After living for more than six months in a Winnipeg church, the children of a family seeking sanctuary from deportation are now allowed to attend public school. The four school-aged children of Hassan Raza and Sarfraz Kausar attended their first classes in the Louis Riel School Division on Friday, after receiving assurances that doing so will not open them up to detention by immigration authorities.

Until Friday, the children had been home-schooled by volunteers at the Crescent Fort Rouge United Church, where the family of eight sought refuge in August to avoid deportation.

Rev. Barb Janes, who has lobbied several politicians on the family’s behalf, is grateful the school board has opened its doors to the children.

“They’re not taking any sides in the family’s struggle to stay in Canada,” she said. “This is a decision about children’s right to be educated, and they’re honouring that right.”
Hassan Raza said he is pleased his children will be able to keep up their English training and other skills in school.

Since leaving Pakistan in 1998, the family has lived in the United States, and has been in Canada the last four years. Two of the couple’s six children were born here and are Canadian citizens.

The family sought refuge in the church Aug. 3, after a Federal Court rejected their refugee claim based on the threat of religious persecution.

Hassan Raza is a Shia Muslim, while Kausar is Sunni, and the family fears persecution in the predominantly Sunni Muslim country. Hassan Raza has said he was beaten while in detention in Pakistan.

In November, the federal Immigration Department turned down their appeal to leave sanctuary and live in Winnipeg while their application to stay in Canada on compassionate and humanitarian grounds awaits a review.

The church and family continue to lobby the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration for landed immigrant status.

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