From Behind Church Walls: Montrealers rally in solidarity with Khurshid Begum Awan and others living in sanctuary across Canada
Montreal, February 27, 2014 – Today at noon, and linked with actions in Toronto, Vancouver, and Hamilton to mobilize against the violence of detentions and deportations, Montrealers will gather in front of Immigration offices to denounce the injustices that the Awan family is facing at the hands of the Canadian immigration system, and to demand that Immigration Minister, Chris Alexander, use his discretionary power to regularize Khurshid Begum Awan’s status immediately.
Living in sanctuary causes Khurshid, her daughter Tahira Malik and young grandson Ali immense daily stress. Since six months ago, when Khurshid made the courageous decision to seek sanctuary in order to defy her removal order, the lives of the entire family have been put on hold. On top of this, unable to leave the church, Khurshid has been forced to miss important medical appointments. Her heart condition continues to deteriorate.
“I am constantly worried. I need to go to the hospital but I can’t,” states Mrs. Awan from sanctuary.
“Six months is beyond enough. This family has endured so much violence in Pakistan and here in Canada. It is in the hands of Chris Alexander to use the power at his disposal to give Khurshid status and he has done nothing. We demand that he act now without a moment’s delay,” says Alex Matak, member of the Awan family support committee
With a creative visual piece highlighting the different faces of individuals and families who have lost their lives or had their lives suspended by the rigid and uncompromising immigration laws, today’s action also aims to highlight and connect sanctuary struggles across the country. Over the past decade, dozens of individuals and families have made the extremely difficult decision to take sanctuary in churches across Canada. In the context of increasingly racist and exclusionary immigration laws, migrants across the country are finding themselves in situations of tremendous precarity, sometimes even resorting to death rather than facing detention and deportation.
The Awan family and their supporters demand that Chris Alexander grant Khurshid Begum Awan status on Humanitarian grounds without delay, that her husband Mohammad Khalil Awan be permitted to return to Montreal, and that the entire family including Tahira and Ali be able to live with justice and dignity.
“Khurshid’s struggle for justice is also our struggle,” states Jose Figueroa from the church in Langley, BC where he has taken sanctuary. “It is not easy. Every day that goes by enduring the stress of having our freedom taken away, we will get closer to having our rights as immigrants upheld.”