Monday, August 13, 2007

Singh’s future uncertain

The future of a paralyzed refugee who dodged deportation earlier this month by taking refuge in an Abbotsford temple is still shrouded in uncertainty.

Border Services Agency (BSA) spokeswomen Faith St. John could not comment specifically on Laibar Singh’s case, but said the rules are clear – there is no law preventing the Agency from going into a place of worship.

“Anytime there is an outstanding removal order against someone, we expect them to abide by Canada’s laws and leave the country,” she said.

Singh arrived in Canada four years ago on a fake passport. He was left paralyzed by an aneurysm last year and needs constant medical care.

His applications for refugee status were turned down and his claim of persecution at the hands of state police rejected by officials who “did not believe he was credible.”

He was to be deported to India earlier this month but, with help from friends, he left the George Pearson Centre in Vancouver and found refuge at the temple.

“We have had cases before where people have been hiding in a place of worship to evade deportation,” said St. John, “and each of these cases has been dealt with on a case-by-case basis.”

Asked whether BSA will intervene in Singh’s case, St. John said, “The federal government does not condone hiding in a place of worship to avoid deportation and Canada is recognized as having one of the fairest and comprehensive refugee systems in the world.”

She added, “It’s imperative for the integrity of our system once an individual has exhausted all avenues that they respect Canada’s immigration laws.”

Temple president Swarn Singh Gill said, as far as he knew, BSA had not contacted Singh. All he’s concerned about his Singh’s health.

“I don’t think he should be deported because of the way his health is right now,” Singh told the Abbotsford News.

“Right now I’m concerned about his health.”

Donations for Singh amounting to roughly $7,000 have come in from the Sikh community throughout the Lower Mainland, but Gill said they weren’t coming in as fast as before.

In an effort to raise more money, the temple organized a special dinner for this evening (Saturday).

Singh continues to receive regular check-ups from former B.C. cabinet minister Dr. Gulzar Cheema. A dentist has also visited Singh at the house beside the temple where he is staying.

“He (Singh) seems comfortable now,” said Gill, who said the stream of visitors is never-ending.

“He talks to the people. He looks forward to their visits. They cheer him up,” he said.

During the day, Singh goes for short outings in his wheelchair a couple of times a day to get some fresh air.

Gill believes looking after Singh is the right thing to do.

“Some people think they should deport him back to India, but my thinking is they should not send him back the way he is now,” said Gill.

“He’s not scared anymore. He thinks he’s safe there [at the temple].”