Refugee Escapes Deportation at Vancouver Airport

Posted by admin on Jan 22nd, 2003

Corporate News Report, 22 January 2003

Three protesters were arrested at Vancouver airport yesterday after allegedly aiding the escape of an Iranian woman about to be deported.

Kobra Natghi, her wrists bound in plastic cuffs, bolted out of the airport after a crowd of about 30 people protesting her deportation swarmed an immigration officer as he escorted her through the airport lobby. Natghi scrambled into a vehicle which then crashed into another vehicle. The occupants fled on foot, and Richmond RCMP believe they were picked up by another protest vehicle.

Natghi, a single mother who fled an abusive marriage in Iran five years ago, was in hiding last night. She lost her refugee claim and she and her son Hassan Esmat, 21, were arrested Friday night.

Members of the International Federation of Iranian Refugees and the Anti-Poverty Committee, who staged the protest, claimed not to know her whereabouts last night.

Natghi, her son and one other unidentified Iranian national had earlier boarded the Air Canada flight, said Richmond RCMP. But at about 1:30 p.m. the pilot ordered them off the plane after one of the deportees became extremely agitated, police said. They were on their way back through the airport when they stumbled on the protesters, who had planned a peaceful demonstration to oppose a recent wave of deportations to Iran, said “Joey,” a member of the Anti-Poverty Committee.

“She [Natghi] was seen by the Iranian people who became very visibly upset and got in the way of the guard. And then everyone kind of joined in.”

Refugee advocates had been writing letters and calling politicians in hopes of a last-minute reprieve for Natghi.

“This is not going to help her in any way,” said Esmail Afshari, who employed Natghi’s son. He said he was appalled to learn that after five years in Canada, Natghi and her son were given no opportunity to pack their belongings or settle their affairs.

Poverty activists said they got involved in the case to show their disapproval for deportations to Iran.

“Canada says it is safe to go back to Iran and we’ve got lots of evidence to prove otherwise,” said Joey, who was arrested at the protest, questioned by police and later released. “What she stands to lose at the hands of the Iranian state compared to what we stand to lose as white activists at the hands of the Canadian state are very, very different.”

Iranian refugee advocate Davood Ghavami said there has been a spike in deportations to Iran. Refugee claimants, who were once given 30 days notice before deportation, are now being arrested and jailed with no notice.

Update:

Two√ā¬†demonstrators are still in jail as of Thursday, January 23. Kobra has a court appearance at 2:00pm on Thursday, January 23 at the detention centre at 300 W. Georgia in Library Square, Downtown Vancouver.

Background

Iranian refugee activists occupied the Immigration Enforcement office in Vancouver on Monday afternoon, January 20, 2003, to fight the deportation of an woman and her son back to Iran. About a hundred of supporters came out in solidarity with the occupation and a demonstration at the same office later that evening.

On Friday, January 17th, Kobra Natghi and her 21 year old son, Hassan Esmat were called into an Immigration Canada office in Vancouver BC for a routine interview. The letter they recieved demanding this meeting said, “You are reminded that failure to report may result in the issuance of a warrant for your arrest and detention.” At this “interview” they were arrested: legs chained and handcuffed and taken to jail. Kobra and Hassan came to Canada four years ago as political refugees from Iran where their rights were severely restricted and their lives were in grave danger. This danger has not lessened; if they are allowed to be forced back to Iran by immigration Canada they will almost certainly be imprisoned, tortured and killed.

Kobra and Hassan are scheduled to be deported on Tuesday January 21st at 4pm. Kobra is being held at the detention center at Richmond International Airport and Hassan has just been transferred from Vancouver Pretrial on Main St to Fraserview Corrections. Neither one of them is being allowed to see their lawyer. Hassan will not be allowed to see visitors until 24 hours after his prison transfer is complete, by that time he will have already been deported to Iran. Kobra has not eaten in the three days since she was arrested and she has a severe anxiety disorder, Hassan has epilepsy; their health is in jeopardy even in their present situation. We must come together NOW to stop this deportation, there is no time to waste. Immigration Canada met with the Campaign to stop deportations only to say to the people who occupied their office earlier today, “We are deporting Kobra and Hassan, there is nothing you can do.” The only crime of Kobra and Hassan is that they are from Iran. We can stop the deportation by exposing Immigration Canada; deportations are racist and they rely on the indifference of the public to carry them out in secret.

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