By Adeola Adeyemo
There has been an outcry over the news currently making waves about two Nigerian girls facing deportation from Canada. The two girls, Victoria Ordu (20) and Ihuoma Amadi (21) are students of University of Regina have reportedly been seeking sanctuary inside a church since June 19, 2012.
The students are currently living in fear of being deported back home to Nigeria because they worked for two weeks at Walmart.
CBC reports that the students have been studying at the University of Regina for three years and their student visas do allow them to work, but only on campus. Victoria is studying Theatre Arts, and Ihuoma, International Studies. However, they claimed they did not know of the restriction and worked for two weeks at a Walmart store, but stopped as soon as they learned of the rules.
They are both in Canada on full scholarships paid for by the Nigerian government.
According to Leader Post, last year, Ihuoma found a part-time job at Walmart and Victoria, at an agency that does demonstrations at the store. They were under the misapprehension that their Social Insurance Numbers allowed them to work outside the University. But that was not the case. Victoria quit after two weeks, as soon as she found out while Ihuoma discovered her mistake during her second week on the job — and was led away from her till in handcuffs by two Canada Border Services Agency agents.
“They led me through the store, in front of everyone, and all the customers were looking at me like ‘What have you done?” she told Leader Post. “I just felt so embarrassed.”
They said they have been seeking sanctuary in the church for days, sometimes not going out at all or eating. “At times, we stay for days without eating because we don’t go outside,” Ihuoma said at the church where they sleep on the floor.
The daily stress of it has, they say, been “hell.”
“This is a small mistake we made, and now everything is at risk,” Victoria told Leader Post, clasping her shaking hands in her lap. “It doesn’t make any sense. They’re looking for us like we’ve killed someone. We’re just students at university … but it’s like we’re running away and living in fear every day.”
The girls said they have written letters to the Federal Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to grant them pardons. However, in a later report by The Star Phoenix, their hopes were dashed when it was stated that the Immigration Minister does not hold the power to pardon the students who are seeking sanctuary in a church to avoid deportation.
To make matters worse, the Canada Border Services Agency recently released a statement that the girls have no right to sanctuary. The Agency’s spokeswoman Lisa White explained that “There’s no place in Canada where an individual can retreat and be immune from Canadian law.” She further stated that the Agency does not condone “any individual hiding in churches or other places of worship to avoid removal from Canada.”
Meanwhile, the girls have continued to gather support from fellow students, the University authorities and a Regina immigration consultant, Kay Adebogun who has taken on their case pro bono.
A Facebook group – called Students in Solidarity With Victoria and Ihuoma – has been formed by fellow University of Regina student, Stephen Davis. A look at the page shows that it already has 382 members, most of whom are students of the University who are working hard to get lots of signatures for their petition.
The University spokeswoman, Barb Pollock told Leader Post that while the school respects the fact laws have to be upheld, it is trying to advocate for a reconsideration of the girls’ case.
“We think that the penalty, perhaps, is a bit severe for the crime. Albeit that laws have been contravened, in light of what they have done to contravene the law, we would like them to have an opportunity to complete their education with us … (and) we think it is a harsh penalty to be deported,” she said
Walmart where the girls were illegally employed told Leader Post in an email that they were investigating the matter. “We take this matter seriously and we are investigating,” the email read. ”We have a process in place to ensure associates have appropriate documentation to work in Canada.”
Now, the girls’ fate still hangs in the balance. For them, the CBSA’s decision to deport them — which went to an admissibility hearing — is an over-reaction.
“It’s a huge deal to finish school, come back (to Nigeria) and help the country,” Victoria says. “Now to think we lose three years of our lives because of a small mistake? If there was a fine, a warning, that would be more reasonable. I just wish they could look at this from a human point of view.”
Photo Credit: IFPress