Posted by: Singh Is King | Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Refugee seeks asylum in Sikh temple

Supporters of claimant say it’s cruel to send the recently disabled man back to India, where the level of care is uncertain

VANCOUVER — A failed refugee claimant, left disabled from an aneurysm, has dodged another deportation order by moving into a Sikh temple in the Fraser Valley city of Abbotsford.

Laibar Singh, 48, who is paralyzed, in a wheelchair and needs regular dialysis treatment, left a Vancouver long-term care centre over the weekend for the sanctuary of the Kalgidhar temple in Abbotsford, about an hour’s drive east of Vancouver.
He was to have been deported to India yesterday on a jet chartered by Canadian authorities to accommodate his health needs.

Instead, Mr. Singh will stay at the Abbotsford temple indefinitely, said Harpal Singh Nagra, a spokesman for a B.C.-based South Asian human rights group. “He’s not ever going to leave,” Mr. Nagra said. “He said he wants to die there.”r. Singh has been trying to obtain legal status in Canada since 2003 when he entered the country in Toronto using a false passport. The widowed father of four made a refugee claim, saying he would face torture by Punjab police if he were returned to India because he’s been falsely linked to a Khalistan nationalist group whose goal is to form a Sikh state.

Mr. Singh’s case has been championed by some members of British Columbia’s Sikh community, who said it’s cruel to deport a disabled man to India, where the level of his care is uncertain.

A rights group for the disabled also backed Mr. Singh’s bid to stay in Canada, saying a man in his condition should not be sent to India.

Until his move to the temple, Mr. Singh was at a Vancouver long-term care home, which costs about $400 a day. Prior to that, he was at Vancouver General Hospital for five months. Mr. Nagra said Mr. Singh’s health-care costs have been paid by taxpayers, although his supporters have pledged to cover his health-care needs while in the temple.

A throng of supporters yesterday turned out when Mr. Singh was wheeled into the temple. Mr. Nagra said the community has arranged for medical staff to treat him inside the temple.

Faith St. John, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Border Services Agency, said staff aren’t permitted to discuss individual cases. However, she said Ottawa doesn’t condone hiding in a place of worship as a means of evading deportation.

“There are other safeguards in place to ensure people in need are protected,” Ms. St. John said.

After his refugee claim was rejected, Mr. Singh appealed, but a judicial review rejected his claim. He later made an appeal to stay on humanitarian and compassionate grounds but that too was rejected. Last year, a deportation order was handed down in Montreal, but Mr. Singh fled to Vancouver.

He found construction work, but late last year was felled by the aneurysm.

Mr. Singh’s children are all in India.


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