Interview with a Palestinian Refugee in Vancouver

Posted by admin on Mar 16th, 2005

Interview with a Palestinian Refugee in Vancouver

A Palestinian refugee living in Vancouver was recently denied refugee status. The Immigration & Refugee Board (IRB) member ruled that he was Jordanian and therefore could return to Jordan without any risks, despite the fact that all his documents prove that he is Palestinian. The denial of his identity as a Palestinian refugee is a blatant violation by the IRB and reveals the discrimination against Palestinian refugees. Approximately another 100 Palestinian refugees are facing deportation from Canada.

Q: Please explain your background as a Palestinian, how you have had to move around.
A: I am a Palestinian who was born in Jordan to Palestinian parents, while my family was visiting there. I lived in Kuwait with my parents, where my father was working, until they passed away. After their death, I moved to the West Bank city of Qalquilia in 1980, with my siblings, to live with my grandparents. During the first uprising, I wanted to get out of the West Bank, out of the horrible conditions that I lived in under occupation. I went to Jordan with my brother to try to get residence status, since two of my siblings were residents, but because of the Jordanian Laws at the time, we were denied.

That’s when I decided to apply for a student visa for the United States. Once in the States, I applied for refugee status as a Palestinian I could never get any status in the US. Due to negligence on the part of my representatives my claim was rejected. In 2002, I came to Canada and applied for asylum. This is the fifth country that I have had to
move to.

Q: Describe the living conditions in Qalquilia under occupation, during the first uprising. What kinds of dangers were you facing?
A: Living under occupation was tough before the uprising. After the start of the uprising, the violent oppression from the Israeli army was worse. My life was turned upside-down. We were under constant curfews, without electricity, without water and without phones. I remember the longest curfew, when I was there, was 27 days. Every four days we had two hours to go out shopping and there was still no guarantee that you would be safe. If one stone were thrown at the Israeli soldiers in that time, curfew would be
immediately enforced again with arrests, beatings and shootings. One day during curfew, we heard a bang at the door from the Israeli army. My brother and I knew what was going to happen, because we had seen it many times before.

They took my brother and I to the station a kilometer away and beat us there. While we were at the station, we witnessed the most horrifying beatings by the Israeli army, against seven Palestinian men. It’s the scariest thing in my life, the soldiers were beating them so hard that the batons were breaking upon impact. We spent a day and a half
there until they released us in the middle of the night. Being seen on the street during curfew, a lot of the times meant being shot at by the army. It was dangerous. My life totally changed after that, nine months into the first uprising. It was the most horrible time. I still suffer from that. There is no way to describe the fear and the horror when there’s nothing you can do.

Q: What are the steps you have gone through in the refugee process in Canada?
A: The first step is the hearing, where they determine if you are a refugee or not. Unfortunately, the member of the IRB was not satisfied with any of my official documents. Really, she has no basis. I have all my original documents, official documents, by the Jordanians, by the Palestinian Authority, by the Israeli authorities and the United Nations (UNRWA). I am Palestinian. I am not Jordanian.

Q: Do you know other people that have been victimized by the refugee system in Canada?
A: I know there are many Palestinians that are going through the same difficulties. Canada used to grant asylum to most Palestinian refugees. Palestinians are living under occupation, maybe the most brutal and savage occupation in the world. And the whole world is witness to that. Hundreds of organizations for human rights, even the United Nations and including a lot of Israeli organizations, testify the same thing. It’s a fact. Grave human rights violations are committed on a daily basis by the Israeli army. And of course, that’s why people leave! Nobody can argue with that, unless they are prejudiced. So suddenly, being a Palestinian from that situation is not enough a reason to be recognized as a refugee for Canada.

Q: What changes should be made to the refugee process?
A: There is no doubt in my mind that it is fair and just that Palestinians need to be recognized as refugees, because we are recognized by the Geneva Conventions ss refugees and because of what is happening there. It has ruined my life. I am always living in fear. I can’t get rid of this fear.

Q: What do you think people can do to specifically help your case?
A: I think if more Canadian citizens became aware of what is happening, about the process a refugee is going through, they might support a more just process. People were protesting that there should be an appeal process, because it is a fact that some people will be unfairly denied. “No One Is Illegal” is giving me a lot of support, by trying to show people that regardless what the judge decided, that I am Palestinian. I admire that and I appreciate their work.

Q: If Canada decides to deport you, where will they send you?
A: That’s the thing. They have to arrange things with the Jordanians. The Jordanians are going to say, “This guy is not Jordanian, he’s Palestinian.” One thing that I am worried about is if the Jordanians take me and try to send me to the West Bank. I don’t want to go back there, under the circumstances. If the Canadians want to cut it short, they could send me back to the US. It’s a never-ending cycle. I’m exhausted mentally and physically. Where can I go? I don’t know. It’s tough. Not knowing what might happen is the worst thing.

Interview by Johanna, a Vancouver resident and an activist with the International Solidarity Movement. She can be reached at

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