Burundian asylum seeker in Montreal fears death if deported

A Burundian woman in Montreal whose 2-year-old was born in Canada is making a last effort to avoid deportation after having her refugee application turned down.

Single mother who fled violence in 2006 fears she'll be 'lynched' if forced to return to Burundi

A Burundian soldier with his gun and rocket launcher guard a deserted street in Bujumbura, Burundi, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015. (Associated Press)

A Burundian woman living in Montreal is pleading to be allowed to stay in Canada, and the worsening situation in her native country has prompted refugee advocates to join her appeal to avoid deportation.

Maria (CBC agreed to conceal her identity for her security) came to Canada nine years ago as Burundi was emerging from a long civil war.

Many people were displaced, and food was scarce, and Canada to her seemed a safe, idyllic place.

"When I was little, we would play a game and choose a country we'd like to live in. I chose Canada," she said.

Her application for refugee status was refused in 2006, but Canada had also suspended deportations to Burundi at that time because of civil strife there.

That ban was lifted in 2009.

Now a single mother of a two-year-old girl, Maria is awaiting the date for her deportation. It was supposed to take place on Nov. 17, but has now been delayed while immigration officials read over documents presented by her lawyer.

Despite renewed violence in the African nation of Burundi, Canada goes ahead with deportations of former refugees. 1:58

Burundi back on the brink

Meanwhile, violence in Burundi is on the rise once again. More than 240 people have been killed in clashes since April, when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would seek a third term, violating an agreement that limits presidents to two terms.

A failed military coup in May aggravated the violence.

Just last Monday, the United Nations condemned an attack in the capital Bujumbura that killed seven people, including a UN staffer.

Maria fears for her and her daughter's safety if they're made to return to her native Burundi, where violence is on the rise. (CBC)

'I will be lynched'

Maria, and Canadians who follow the situation in Burundi, are trying to bring attention to the dangers in the country.

"I know I will be lynched. I am also a woman, and I have a little girl," she said.

Patrice Nzigamasabo, a businessman in Montreal, says there are more than 600 cases of would-be refugees living in Canada facing deportation to Burundi.

"The situation in Burundi is worse than Rwanda prior to 1994 Genocide," he said.

Patrice Nzigamasabo of the Alliance des Burundais du Canada says the situation in Burundi today "is worse than Rwanda prior to the 1994 Genocide." (CBC)

Nzigamasabo said Ottawa should reinstate a temporary halt on removal orders issued for people who fled Burundi.

Those who work with refugees say when it comes to fighting deportation orders, federal authorities will look at each story on a case-by-case basis.

"[The halt on deportations] isn't something that gives refugee status. But if it were in place, it would give this woman and her child security for now," said Jenny Jeanes of the group Action Refugiés Montréal.

The Canada Border Services Agency said it's continuing to monitor the situation in Burundi.

But for Maria, time is running out.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.