Sunday, February 18, 2007

Latvian national in St. John's church loses immigration appeal

CBC News - Friday, February 16, 2007

No Risk in Returning to Latvia: Immigration Officials

A Latvian man who has sought sanctuary in a St. John's church for the past two years has learned federal authorities have rejected his claim to stay in Canada on compassionate and humanitarian grounds.

Alexi Kolosov, who had been among the crew of a vessel abandoned in Argentia in 1999, is fighting a deportation order from Canadian immigration officials.

Alexi Kolosov has been living in the West End Baptist Church in St. John's since April 2005. Alexi Kolosov has been living in the West End Baptist Church in St. John's since April 2005.

Kolosov claimed refugee status, but it was denied, so he sought refuge in the West End Baptist Church.

"There were a lot of flaws in their rationale," Gordon Sutherland, a minister who has been an advocate on Kolosov's behalf, told CBC News Friday.

"They note that of the years that he has been here, he has been unemployed for 74 of those months, so he really hasn't settled in. Yet … 22 of those months, he's been in sanctuary because they wanted to deport him, [and for] almost 52 of those months, it's been because the Immigration Department has revoked his work permit," Sutherland said.

"How can they create the problem and then use the problem as an excuse to deport him?" said Sutherland.

Undue Hardship Claim Rejected

Joan Walsh, a regional manager with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, said Kolosov's application was rejected because he would not face undue hardship if he returned to Latvia.

"He's been there before …. He has family in Latvia — immediate family — [and] there's not an usual or underserved hardship for him to leave and apply from outside the country," Walsh said.

Kolosov's supporters say he would face discrimination in Latvia because he is of Russian heritage, and relations between Latvia and Russia have been strained since the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Sutherland said Kolosov's children in Latvia are now fully grown and do not depend on him. He said, however, that he deserves to stay in Canada so he can be near his four Canadian-born grandchildren.

Walsh said Kolosov may appeal to the Federal Court of Canada.

Sutherland said the congregation of his church still support Kolosov, and will be attempting to engage the help of politicians.

"This is wrong, and so we're continuing to stand with him," Sutherland said.