Nepalese refugee’s long wait under church’s shelter ends

Posted by admin on Apr 25th, 2009

By Bruce Ward, The Ottawa Citizen. April 25, 2009

The Ottawa Citizen OTTAWA — Nepalese refugee Shree Kumar Rai is set to begin his new life here as a legal immigrant after more than two years of confinement in a church. “He was accepted as a permanent resident to Canada on Thursday,” said Patricia Paul-Carson, speaking on behalf of the First Unitarian Congregation, a church on Cleary Avenue near Woodroffe Avenue.  “He gained entry as a skilled worker. He had to meet all the immigration requirements. He had to go through the whole shebang from beginning to end. There was nothing special that he got.”

Rai, 46, will begin work as a sushi chef at an Ottawa restaurant within a month or so, said Paul-Carson. He will also be reunited soon with his family.

“His wife and teenaged son will be coming to Canada from Nepal in June,” she said. “He hasn’t seen them for over 12 years, but they have kept in touch all this time.”

Rai, a failed refugee claimant, was ordered to be deported by Feb. 27, 2007, the same day he voluntarily sought sanctuary inside First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa.

The church agreed to shelter Rai after the congregation decided the immigration system had mistakenly rejected his refugee status claim and that he would be in danger if forced to return to Nepal.

“He doesn’t want to talk to the media,” said Paul-Carson. “I think he just wants to get on with his life. It has been an exhausting two years for him in many ways. It’s a long time.”

Rai is looking for an apartment and will continue to live at the church until he has found a place, she said.

A teacher and storekeeper in Nepal, Rai fled to Canada in 1996 when Nepal was embroiled in a civil war.

While confined to the church and its grounds, Rai made sushi to help support his family in Nepal and developed a talent for landscape painting.

Rai briefly left Canada recently as stipulated by the outstanding deportation order.

“The Canada Border Services Agency required him to fulfil the deportation order against him,” said Paul-Carson. “He had to go down into the U.S. and because he had already been accepted as a skilled worker here, he was able to come back in again.”



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