What Farah Ghodayan’s Case says about Canada’s Immigration Policies
Bidoons, which means “without” in Arabic, referring to being without citizenship (bidoun jensiya) are a group of people who at the time of independence were not given Kuwaiti citizenships. When the British ended the protectorate in 1961, about one-third of the population was given nationality on the basis of being “founding fathers” of the new nation state, another third were naturalized as citizens, and the rest were considered stateless.
Mr. Jaber Mufarreh and his wife, Ms. Farah Ghodayan, happen to be amongst those who are considered stateless in Kuwait. As such, they cannot obtain a passport. Bidoons in Kuwait are persecuted, targeted and mistreated. Farah is unable to obtain any identity documents as a Bidoon, except for her birth certificate which does not even have a picture. The government only renews identity documents of Bidoons on a discretionary basis. Without proper documentation, Farah cannot work legally, cannot access health care, has no legal rights whatsoever, and cannot obtain an Article 17 Passport , which are sometimes issued to Bidoons with proper ID to temporarily leave the country.
Without an Article 17 passport, Jaber could not attempt to apply for his wife to come to Canada as a visitor. The government of Kuwait refused to issue her an Article 17 Passport. Farah has no means to support herself, so he has been providing financial support to her regularly. Since Farah lacks government issued ID with a picture, she cannot collect the funds he sends her.
On November 24, 2015, the Embassy of Canada in Abu-Dhabi accepted her sponsorship application to become a permanent resident, and requested that she provide her passport to the Embassy within 30 days. Unfortunately, however, the story does not end there.
"When [Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada] says, 'Send in your passport,' this is the best part of the story for the client. That's it. Things are ready to move along," she said. "But in this instance, being a Bidoon really made it, like a happy ending that just didn't, couldn't happen." Since Farah is a Bidoon, she is stateless in Kuwait and cannot obtain a passport. After contacting several agencies, the Red Crescent in Kuwait informed Gerami Law P.C. that the Red Cross (ICRC) in Kuwait can provide “one-way travel documents” (called ICRC Travel Documents) for stateless Bidoons who are permitted to travel to Canada.
When Jaber and his wife went to the ICRC in Kuwait, they advised them that they needed to confirm the authenticity of the November 24, 2015 letter from the Canadian Embassy in Abu Dhabi before starting the process of issuing her travel document. However, despite the fact that Red Cross in Kuwait accepted to issue the travel document to Farah, the Canadian Embassy in Abu Dhabi took the position on January 6, 2016 that this type of “travel document is not valid for travel for applicants who are not travelling to Canada as a refugee.”
Ms. Gerami responded back to the Canadian Embassy, insisting that the ICRC travel document was by law an acceptable document to facilitate immigration to Canada and reunite this family. But with no response from the Canadian government, Farah and Jaber decided to take their case to the media. On January 14, 2016, CBC news broadcasted this Bidoon’s family’s story on the 6pm news and wrote an article.
Two days later, on January 16, 2016, Ms. Gerami was able to deliver some good news to her anxiously waiting clients: the Canadian Embassy in Abu Dhabi responded to her and confirmed that they “do recognize the ICRC travel documents as an acceptable travel document”. After this long ordeal, Farah obtained her travel document on January 25, 2016 and is now finally expected to make her way to Canada.