Refugee Lawyers Are Urging the Canadian Government to Fast-Track the Claims of Asylum Seekers Who Helped Edward Snowden
A Canadian refugee lawyer is asking the Federal government to speed up the application process for a group of asylum seekers known as “Snowden’s Guardian Angels.” The Angels, who sought refuge in Hong Kong after fleeing persecution in their home countries, sheltered the American whistleblower, Edward Snowden, in Hong Kong for two weeks in 2013. They are now facing deportation from Hong Kong for their actions.
The Angels, who consist of four adults and three young children born in Hong Kong, gained recognition with the release of a 2016 Hollywood film, which portrays their involvement with Snowden. Unfortunately, this increased public awareness of the Angels’ affiliation with the American whistleblower has now put them in danger, as Hong Kong has ordered the Angels to report to an immigration detention center and sought to return them to countries where they face torture and persecution.
As a result, in January 2017, a not-for-profit group from Montreal, For the Refugees, raised funds and filed to privately sponsor the Angels to Canada as refugees. According to the group, Canada’s immigration minister had made a commitment to fast-track their applications, but the Canadian consulate reports that the applications are currently being processed at a standard rate. A spokesperson for the immigration minister has also denied any commitment having been made to expedite the process.
Standard processing times for these types of applications typically take months or even years. The Angels, however, do not have the benefit of time to wait for a decision. With their deportation from Hong Kong looming closer, the Angels’ situation turns more precarious with each passing day. If deported back to their countries of origin, they will face not only a serious threat to their lives but also a potential breakdown of their families and separation from their children, contrary to the objectives of Canadian immigration legislation.
While a motion has now been filed with the Federal Court to speed up the application process, Canadian refugee lawyers urge the federal government to decide the case on an urgent basis in light of Snowden's Angels compelling circumstances, as well as its international commitments to provide protection to those fleeing persecution. The Angels have already fled violence and torture once and should not have their lives and those of their children placed at risk once again simply for extending help to a fellow asylum-seeker.
For more information on the refugee application and sponsorship process, contact a Canadian refugee lawyer.