A group of about 15 people representing No One is Illegal, a local migrant support coalition accompanied Dammika Kumara Tissawalangumndiyanselage (Kuma), a Sri Lankan man and 5-year resident of Dartmouth, as he entered the Halifax International Airport to face a deportation order slated for this morning, May 19th at 6:30am. The group led a 2 hour disturbance of airport affairs to publicize the abhorrently racist nature of deportations.
HALIFAX – A community delegation accompanied Dammika Kumara Tissawalangumndiyanselage (Kuma), a Sri Lankan man and 5-year resident of Dartmouth, as he entered the Halifax International Airport to face a deportation order slated for this morning, May 19th at 6:30am.
Kuma, who is currently married to a Canadian citizen, has been living and working in Halifax for five years. He was originally scheduled for deportation on May 11th, however the order was delayed due to the fact that the only international airport in the country has been closed as a result air attacks by the Tamil Tigers. His deportation represents a disturbing and repressive act on the part of immigration officials, due to the dangerous situation to which he and his wife would be subjected in Sri Lanka.
A group of about 15 people representing No One is Illegal, a local migrant support coalition, distributed pamphlets about Kuma to airport patrons while chanting 'Air Canada, shame shame, deportation is your game - get off it, you're ruining lives for profit'; a reference made to the fact Air Canada took the CIC contract to deport Dammika. Airport security and RCMP officials responded to the rowdy group but, in the end, the protestors were not forced to leave.
"We will continue to press the Canadian government to readmit this young man to Canada on a spousal sponsorship application," said a No One is Illegal member, "however, we believe that all Canadians who believe in a non-racist society must stand up and demand action from the Canadian Minister of Immigration, CBSA head Stockwell Day, and from local Canadian Immigration officials. Deportations are completely ."
Kuma's Canadian wife, Kimberly Charron, had applied to be his sponsor in his permanent residence application, based on Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds. Regardless of the pending nature of this legal claim, his deportation date to Sri Lanka was set for May 11th, 2007. Kuma lost his refugee claim in 2005 and was notified on April 14th of this year that he lost his Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA) application. His deportation date was later extended to May 19th due to the closure of Sri Lanka's only international airport.
The Canadian government's unwillingness to consider issuing a stay of Kuma's deportation order has placed an immense emotional strain on Kim and her family. Kuma and Kimberly will be forced apart due to the financial strain caused by the repeated rescheduling of Kuma's departure flight by Immigration officials. Despite the dangerous nature of the situation in Sri Lanka due to the current civil war, Kimberly had initially planned to depart with Kuma. Instead, she will remain in Canada for the next few months due to threats to her safety, as well as financial constraints.
No One is Illegal has issues a statement that can be read below:
We decry the actions of the offices of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, as well as the Canadian Border Services Agency who, in their callous disregard for human lives, are prepared to place both Kumara and Kimberly in immediate danger. At present, Sri Lanka is perhaps the most devastated war zone in South East Asia. The intensity of the conflict has forced 300,000 people to flee their homes, and has claimed the lives of 4000 people since the beginning of 2006 according to Amnesty International. This alone should be enough to convince the Canadian government to stay Kumara’s deportation order, and even to discontinue all deportations to Sri Lanka. Yet the Canadian government’s travel warning for Canadian citizens, as well as the repeated closure of Sri Lanka’s only international airport due to repeated bombing attacks, has not dissuaded this government in the slightest. Citizenship and Immigration Canada has shown nothing but contempt for the safety of Kumara, and for Kimberly.
As members of No One Is Illegal, a local migrant support coalition, we know that Kuma and Kim are being separated because in Canada, we effectively have a category of second-class citizens. Immigrants, refugees, and all people living without status in this country face daily harassment, threats, exploitation, and systemic discrimination. Far too many are maintained in legally precarious states of limbo, sometimes waiting years while the heartless bureaucracy of CIC decides their future. It is more than clear that the estimated 500,000 people living without status in Canada have far fewer rights than do Canadian citizens. As Kumara discovered, while attempting to make sense of the legalistic maze of Canadian Immigration regulations, there are almost no opportunities for appeal of decisions made by the Immigration and Refugee board. Many IRB judges have little or no background in dealing with matters of immigration and are simply political appointees.
Kumara, like so many other immigrants in Halifax and elsewhere across Canada, has been an active, hard-working, kind, and incredibly honest member of the community. He has worked consistently at a variety of jobs since arriving in this city, and has become a member of a Canadian family. By this definition, Kumara is exactly the sort of person that the Federal government has claimed that it wants to come to more rural parts of the country such as Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada. What more could they ask for? Yet, Kumara will be forcibly evicted from this community tomorrow morning. He, like so many other non-status people in Canada, has been treated like a criminal despite committing no crime; Over the past month and a half, Kuma has expressed an understandable fear that his phone calls are being monitored, his steps surveilled, and that he could be imprisoned at any time. Upon return to his home country, Kuma will face possible detainment by the Sri Lanka government by virtue of his being an asylum-seeker. Despite this, the Canadian government still maintains some xenophobic notion that he does not face “enough” danger in his home country to warrant staying his deportation.
We, as members of the Kuma Support Campaign and No One is Illegal (Halifax) will continue to press the Canadian government to readmit this young man to Canada on a spousal sponsorship application. However, we believe that all Canadians who believe in a non-racist society must stand up and demand action from the Canadian Minister of Immigration, Diane Finley, CBSA head Stockwell Day, and from local Canadian Immigration officials. CIC and Canadian Border Services have done extremely little to take responsibility for the safety of this resident of our community.
Corporate News Coverage on Dammika can be found here.