A man from Burundi seeking refugee status in Canada, has been granted a short reprieve from his deportation.
He was set to be deported Tuesday at 4 a.m., but he heard Monday that he was granted an extension until Sept. 15.
Bergise – who is only being identified by his first name for fear he will be identified if he is forced to return to Burundi –came to Canada in August 2014 to stay with his sister in her Manitoba home. Within a few months he filed a refugee claim to keep him from being sent back to the Central African country
At peace in Canada
Bergise left Burundi after being pursued by the political party that is currently in power. They tried to intimidate Bergise into joining their party, betraying his father who is an elected member of an opposition party. Bergise said he categorically refused.
After this encounter, his parents feared for his life and got him out of the country. Bergise said it wasn't long after that police officers showed up at his parents' home looking for him.
"When I left, I escaped the threats of Burundi. So when I'm sent back to Burundi, I am sure I will face violence and threats or they may even kill me. I don't know," Bergise told Radio-Canada in French.
"Here in Canada I'm at peace. I feel well, I'm with my sister, I feel safe."
Canadian immigration laws
Alastair Clarke, a Winnipeg-based immigration lawyer, is doing all he can to prevent Bergise's deportation. The Sept. 15 extension brings relief but no guarantee of safety.
Monday, Bergise was granted a motion to stay his removal but that doesn't change the fact that Bergise's application and appeal for refugee status has been denied and a person can only go through the process one time.
Clarke was not Bergise's lawyer during the original refugee status application process but said it was denied due to a lack of preparedness and missing documentation.
"At this point because of the political situation in Burundi, he faces personal risk and we are trying, with the assistance of the federal court, to keep him in Canada until the country stabilizes and he's no longer at risk," Clarke said Monday.
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Burundi has faced substantial political turmoil in recent months and Bergise is in particular danger as the son of an elected political official, Clarke told CBC.
The situation in the country is changing daily, which will change their outlook on the prospect of Bergise returning home.
Clarke said it is possible tensions will continue to build as the country's next presidential election looms in mid-July and the current president is seeking a third term, contrary to the country's constitution.
"Bergise's mother, father and two siblings are currently in an a refugee camp in Uganda because the situation became so violent and so volatile and they felt that their lives were also at risk," Clarke said.
There is a one-year ban on Bergise pursuing his next course of action, applying for permanent residence based on humanitarian and and compassionate grounds, after having his refugee claim denied. Clarke said they will have to work with Canada's border services come September to have him stay in Canada for the required 12 months.
His only other course of action, Clarke said, would be to apply for pre-removal risk assessment if Burundi was added to the list of exempted countries. Currently there are no exempted countries on the list.
Facing possible violence or death
"I've been blessed by his presence here with us," said Gloria Mpangaje, Bergise's sister.
She has been especially thankful for Bergise being in her home to help since the birth of her third child in March. Now that Bergise is temporarily safe, they will look to find a way to work with the United Nations Refugee Agency to sponsor the rest of their family to come to Canada from Uganda.
"He's the only family that I have here. My kids have been connecting with him very emotionally, they have been loving him and learning so many things through him. We've been very very thankful," she told CBC's Information Radio.
Mpangaje is also confident her brother will face either violence or death if he is sent back to Burundi but for now, Bergise is safe and will celebrate his 21st birthday in Canada with his family.