Laibar Singh wins 60-day Stay of Deportation!

Posted by admin on Aug 19th, 2007

We would like to share with you the excellent news that Laibar Singh has won a 60-day stay of deportation. While certainly not a full measure of justice, it is clear that the government has been forced to respond to the wide-spread support Laibar has received. This victory highlights the importance for us to continue struggling against unjust deportations and detentions that perpetuate pain, anxiety, and violence in the lives of our community members. It is also important to note that this is a temporary deferral, therefore we must not allow Immigration authorities to presume that our public support for Laibar has dwindled and pleaes stay tuned for futher requests for support.

Ottawa grants refugee claimant 60-days
JANE ARMSTRONG, Globe and Mail, August 20, 2007

VANCOUVER — Five weeks ago, failed refugee claimant Laibar Singh was hours away from boarding a medically equipped jet to be deported to India. Instead, his supporters in Vancouver’s Sikh community whisked the paralyzed man to the sanctuary of a temple and vowed to care for him.

Since then, a string of dramatic developments in the case – including the surprise arrest of Mr. Singh in an Abbotsford, B.C. hospital – has generated a wave of sympathy for the 48-year-old Punjabi widower.

Much of the political pressure was organized by supporters in British Columbia’s Sikh community. For the past month, they’ve organized rallies, news conferences and flooded federal politicians with e-mails. The pressure tactics appeared to have worked.

On the weekend, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day temporarily lifted a second deportation order on Mr. Singh, who was supposed to be flown to India today. Instead, Mr. Day granted the disabled man a 60-day reprieve while federal officials take another look at his case.

This latest development marks a turn of fortune for Mr. Singh, who arrived in Toronto from India on a false passport in 2003. He quickly made a refugee claim, arguing that he faced persecution in India because he had been linked to a Sikh nationalist group. The claim, which was heard in Montreal, was rejected and Mr. Singh later fled to the West Coast.

But last fall, Mr. Singh was felled by an aneurysm that left him partly paralyzed, bed-ridden and unable to feed himself.

The federal reprieve buys Mr. Singh’s supporters and lawyer more time to make their case that Mr. Singh should be permitted to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Over the past four days, politicians of all stripes, as well as a slew of community and national organizations – including the Canadian Labour Congress – have thrown their support behind the frail, failed refugee claimant who is still incarcerated in a pretrial detention centre in B.C.’s Fraser Valley.

Surrey, B.C. radio show host Harpreet Singh said Canadians feel compassion for Mr. Singh, a father of four, and believe he’s too ill to be deported.

“We are very happy,” he said yesterday. The radio host said his nightly show was bombarded with hundreds of calls Friday night in support of Laibar Singh.

While Mr. Singh’s four-year bid to stay in Canada was repeatedly rebuffed by authorities, his plight touched a chord among ordinary Canadians.

At a detention review hearing after Mr. Singh’s arrest last week, a throng of supporters lined up for more than an hour to get a seat in one of the tiny hearing rooms. Disabled activists have also sided with Mr. Singh, saying he is too frail now to be sent to his homeland.

However, there are some critics who say Mr. Singh’s case doesn’t warrant a review.

Indo-Canadian journalist Rattan Mall said permitting Mr. Singh to stay will encourage so-called queue jumpers.

“I do empathize with him,” Mr. Mall wrote in a recent editorial in the Indo-Canadian Voice newspaper. “But it’s not Canada’s fault; and nobody needs to make us feel guilty about sending him back to India.”

At a detention hearing last week, the lawyer for the Canada Border Services Agency painted Mr. Singh’s actions over the past four years in a darker light.

Gregory Zuck said Mr. Singh has been dodging authorities since his refugee claim was rejected in 2004. He failed to show up for ordered appointments with immigration authorities, then moved from Montreal to Vancouver without providing a change of address.

After he fell ill, immigration officials temporarily lifted the removal order, but began organizing his deportation as he grew stronger.

In July, immigration authorities arranged for a private jet to take Mr. Singh to New Delhi. The flight was to cost nearly $69,000.

Two days before the deportation, a visitor arrived at the extended care centre where Mr. Singh was recuperating and told staff he wished to take Mr. Singh to a temple to pray. Mr. Singh told staff he would return that night.

Instead, he sought refuge in an Abbotsford Sikh temple. Supporters said they would care for his medical needs and assume all the costs. Mr. Singh remained there for a month, tended to by volunteer medical staff, but nearly two weeks ago, he developed a fever and infection and was taken to hospital.

Last Monday evening, just as Mr. Singh was preparing to return to the temple, officers from the Canada Border Services Agency and Abbotsford police entered his hospital room and arrested him. Officers wheeled him to an awaiting ambulance that drove him to a pretrial detention centre.

The next day, an Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada member upheld Mr. Singh’s detention.

On Saturday, Mr. Day issued the reprieve during a three-way conference call to Conservative MP Nina Grewal and Harpal Singh Nagra, who heads a South Asian human-rights group.

Mr. Singh’s lawyer, Zool Suleman, said he hopes to get his client released from custody.

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