Since May 28, international students facing deportation and supporters from the International Youth Student Organization have been holding down a 24/7, permanent protest outside the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) offices in Mississauga, Ontario.
The protest comes as Canada prepares to deport hundreds of migrant students who had false admission letters submitted in their student visa applications on their behalf without their knowledge. And despite Immigration Minister Sean Fraser’s acknowledgement that these migrants are “victims of fraud” and that the government’s focus is “not penalizing victims,” they still face deportation from a government that does not care that these migrants have studied, worked, and built lives here.
“We are victims, not culprits”
People outside Canada who want to study overseas often hire immigration agents and education recruiters to facilitate the process. These third parties act as representatives for applicants and guide them through the endless paperwork and document submissions that Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) require.
However, instead of conducting the process as intended, unscrupulous recruiters looking to get paid falsified admissions letters and included them in immigration applications without the applicants knowing. One such recruiter, Brijesh Mishra, is believed to have submitted fake documents in hundreds of applications to the IRCC—all without the knowledge or consent of the applicants.
Many of the migrants these recruiters have victimized didn’t find out until after they’d established lives in Canada, studying for years and spending thousands of dollars in international student tuition fees. One sign at the permanent protest reads, “We are victims, not culprits.”
One such victim, Karamjeet Kaur, wrote that she wasn’t aware that her recruiter had tricked her until she applied for permanent residency:
“I applied for my permanent residency, but to my shock, I got called in for an interview with CBSA. They told me about that fake offer letter, which I had no idea about before. I did everything according to the rules, and even got my post-graduate work permit. But Canada still wants to deport me and hundreds of other students.”
Kaur, whose family spent their life savings for her to go overseas and who has been working full-time as a warehouse supervisor for the last four years, was found by a judge to have “genuinely believed” that her offer letter was genuine. Despite this, she was given a deportation order by CBSA for May 29 (the deportation has since been stayed until the Federal Court hears her appeal of the decision).
Kaur’s story is all too common, particularly for international student Lovepreet Singh. Singh, an international student who has also made a life for himself in Canada and whose family also gave everything they had to send him overseas, is scheduled for deportation on June 13. With hundreds of others possibly in the same circumstances, hundreds of deportation orders are bound to follow. Hundreds of lives, dreams, and futures hang in the balance.
The fight doesn’t stop and neither does the protest
The migrant students facing deportation began the ongoing, permanent occupation outside CBSA offices on May 29, demanding that Singh’s deportation order be rescinded. They have been holding down the space every day since, twenty-four hours per day, and they will continue until CBSA stops Singh’s deportation. As the protest enters its third week, other actions have occurred outside MP offices (including a spirited rally outside Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino’s office yesterday) and Immigration Refugee Board buildings. More are being planned.
The protesters are sending a clear message to CBSA and to the Canadian government: we will organize, and we will fight until nobody has to live with deportation hanging over their heads, until everybody has permanent status in Canada, until everybody has the same rights that citizens and permanent residents have. Anything less is just punishing victims.
Join the protest outside 6900 Airport Rd, Mississauga, ON. For updates on the protest and to learn about other actions, follow Naujawan Support Network on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and sign this petition from the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change.
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