Soon-to-be deported parents face dilemma: leave kids or take them to Egypt
Published Thursday, August 28, 2014 8:46AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, August 28, 2014 12:37PM EDT
A Quebec couple is facing the difficult decision of what to do with their two young daughters after their refugee status claim was denied.
Tarek and Samah Khalifa moved to Canada on a visa seeking safety from violence in Egypt in 2006. They filed their first refugee claim a month after arriving. Since then Sarah, 8 and Aicha, 6, have been born and raised in the Montreal borough of Verdun. Because Sarah and Aicha where born in Canada, they are Canadian citizens and can remain in the country if their parents find suitable care-givers. But Tarek and Samah are close to being deported.
"Egypt is not safe for my daughters," Samah told reporters Thursday morning. "How can I protect her?"
They spent all of Wednesday in federal court trying to obtain a stay of deportation with no luck. Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board has denied their claim and the Khalifas are out of options. So instead of starting school today, it looks like Sarah and Aisha may be boarding a plane. The couple has been ordered to leave for Egypt tomorrow.
"They give me two choices," Samah told CTV Montreal. "To leave them here, or take them with me. Both choices that are very difficult for me."
The Khalifas have spent years and thousands of dollars trying to secure permanent status in Canada. They blame poor legal advice and have exhausted all avenues.
"It's very hard waiting anxiously, watching the kids play on the street, on the sidewalk," Tarek told CTV Montreal. "[Do I] take the kids now, throw them in another society with another culture and another standard of living?"
Further complicating the situation is that Sarah suffers from epilepsy and her parents worry she may not be able to get the medical care she needs in Egypt. She is currently being treated at Montreal Children's Hospital. Samah gives Aicha her medication twice a day and said she has received confirmation from Egyptian doctors that the medicine is not available there.
An Amnesty International report states violence in Egypt is at an "unprecedented scale" with human rights violations and thousands killed last year. Amnesty wrote a letter in support of the Khalifas staying in Canada writing, "The current human rights situation in Egypt is alarming and puts the members of the family at risk by exposing them to arbitrary detention and torture, among other things."
Community organizations are rallying behind the family, but barring a last-minute change of heart from Ottawa, Sarah and Aicha could be moving to a new and unknown country.
Members of the Verdun community met at the Canada Border Services Agency Thursday morning to present a petition with a few hundred signatures in an effort to stop the deportation. The government can stop the order so the couple is appealing to the federal Immigration and Public Safety minister and Quebec's Immigration minister.
With files from CTV Montreal's Stephane Giroux and Nadine Ishak.