Masked Chinese migrant ordered released
VANCOUVER - A Chinese man who entered Canada disguised in a mask as an old Caucasian man was ordered released after more than three months of being detained.
Immigration and Refugee Board adjudicator Anita Merai-Schwartz ordered the migrant released Thursday on condition he post a $5,000 bond and report weekly to the Canada Border Services Agency.
In coming to the decision to release the migrant, Merai-Schwartz said that he paid for entering Canada using money from his parents.
"Eight individuals apparently associated with this operation have been arrested in Hong Kong. Thus I do make the finding that in this regard you did use a human smuggling operation to get to Canada," Merai-Schwartz said.
The migrant's identity is protected by a publication ban.
Merai-Schwartz noted the man has remained in detention because of concerns that his large debt either to the smugglers or his parents could motivate him not to appear at his next refugee hearing.
"Additionally, you were found to be a flight risk due to evidence that you were vulnerable to and malleable by the snakeheads," Merai-Schwartz said
But lawyer Daniel McLeod, who is representing the migrant, said a Chinese-Canadian closely linked to the young man's family has agreed to post the bond and provide accommodation in Toronto.
Canada Border Services Agency has continually argued that the migrant is a flight risk, based on the fashion in which he arrived in Canada.
According to previous hearings, the man boarded an Air Canada flight from Hong Kong last October wearing an elaborate latex mask similar to ones used in Hollywood movies. He removed it during the flight, prompting a warning from the Canada Border Services Agency that was later leaked to the media. He was arrested at the Vancouver International Airport.
His case attracted world-wide attention after CNN broadcast his picture next to the picture of him in his disguise.
Canada's refugee and immigration laws mean the migrant cannot be prosecuted for entering Canada illegally since he has claimed asylum.
Merai-Schwartz said the person who put up the bond for the migrant is integral and his influence on the young migrant would outweigh that of the snakeheads.
"Though you did use a smuggling operation to get to Canada, your debt to them appears to have been paid. There is no evidence that you would continue to be vulnerable to them in this regard," Merai-Schwartz said
As a condition of his release, he must report within a week to the CBSA office in Toronto where he will reside with the family friend. After that he must report weekly to CBSA. As a refugee claimant he is able to apply for a work permit.
"I find no reason that you cannot now be influenced in a positive way specially by the person who has not only come to your aid and has a connection to your father, and he has given you his trust based upon his connection without any familial obligation to do so," Merai-Schwartz said.
The migrant did not appear in the hearing but was listening to the translation through telephone.
According to his lawyer, he will likely travel to Toronto this weekend where he will begin the lengthy refugee application process that can take as many as two years.