After taking refuge in a New Brunswick church for 29 months, a Tunisian man is now walking free after his permanent resident application was finally approved.
“I was more than surprised,” Mohamed Amine Maazaoui told CTV Atlantic. “Hope became true.”
Maazaoui’s original claim to become a permanent resident of Canada was denied. Fearing for his life if he returned to his native Tunisia, he took refuge at the Shediac Bay Community Church in Shediac, N.B. In late October, Maazaoui finally received word that his file had been reviewed and that that he would be granted permanent residence in principle on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
“The first day, I can’t sleep,” a beaming Maazaoui said. “I can't say I can't believe, but it’s after like two years and five months -- it's not easy.”
For the past three weeks, Maazaoui’s been getting used to life outside the church. He’s gone shopping and he’s eaten out at restaurants. He now even has an apartment.
“I feel nervous when I’m going to be outside,” he said. “I don't know why…. But now I feel better.”
Even though Maazaoui’s claim has not been finalized, he says he now has no fears of being forced to leave Canada. He expects his permanent resident status to be finalized by the spring.
“That order of deportation does no longer exist,” Akram Ben Salah of the New Brunswick Refugee Clinic told CTV Atlantic. “Amine is free. He's legal, he has his status and he will soon receive his work permit and he will soon start contributing and giving back to the community here in New Brunswick.”
Maazaoui says he’s grateful to the community and the church that welcomed him for the last two and a half years -- and to show his thanks to his adopted home, he’ll be travelling to Fredericton this weekend to observe his first Remembrance Day ceremony in Canada.
“I want to give thanks for those [who] leave the country, leave [their] family, leave this nation to help other people,” he said.
With a report from CTV Atlantic’s Jonathan MacInnis