Turkish refugee living in Edmonton forced to leave family behind — again

A Turkish refugee who left Edmonton to rescue his wife and young children has been forced to leave them behind once again.

Edmonton man's wife and young children stranded after fleeing Turkey's crackdown

The man fled Turkey last year after being tipped off to his own arrest. He's one of hundreds of Turkish refugees across Canada who are now living apart from their families. (Rick Bremness/CBC)

A Turkish refugee who left Edmonton last month to rescue his family has been forced to leave them behind — again.

The man returned to the region he fled just over a year ago in the hopes of bringing back his wife and young children.

On Monday, he returned without them.

CBC is not identifying the family, or their location, for security reasons.

"I felt so guilty," the man told CBC News Thursday, speaking through a translator. "Because I'm going to a safe country and leaving them in a very hard-to-live place."

The man is part of the Gulen movement — a group accused by authorities of orchestrating Turkey's deadly attempted coup in July 2016. 

Gulen members, whose leader Fethullah Gulen was once a close ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, deny the allegation. 

Feared family's arrest

A sweeping crackdown has jailed tens of thousands of people including journalists, human rights activists, military officers, judges, lawyers, academics and opposition politicians. 

The Edmonton man worried his family, too, would soon be be taken into custody.

He fled last year after being tipped off to his own arrest. He's one of hundreds of Turkish refugees across Canada who are now living apart from their families.

Recently, the man arranged for his wife and children to flee the country. Last month, they all reunited in the region. He hoped his permanent residency would be approved during the trip so they could all return to Canada.

Instead, his time overseas was fraught with heartache, frustration and danger.

Turned away from embassy

Their reunion was filled with hugs and tears when he arrived. But his youngest child looked at him as if he was a stranger and shied away, he said. 

He traveled to Amman, Jordan, after an email from the office of Edmonton MP Randy Boissonnault informed him he could apply for his family's Temporary Resident Permits at Canadian embassies in the region.

That's where border police stopped him, he said, because of an arrest warrant by Turkish authorities. Fearing extradition, the man explained he was a protected refugee in Canada, and pulled out the document to prove it. Six hours later they let him go.

At that point his luck ran out. He visited the embassy five days in a row, he said, only to be turned away each time. When he returned to his wife and children, he had to break the news.

"It killed our motivation to keep going," he said.
Tens of thousands of citizens, sacked public employees and high-profile figures marched in July against the large government crackdown. ((Lefteris Pitarakis/Associated Press))

Last week, the man's visa ran out and he knew he had no choice. Staying in the region would jeopardize his own status and his family's future in Canada, he said.

Back in Edmonton, he's racked with worry about his family's situation, living illegally in an insecure country. They have no health care and little access to power or clean water.

His wife's parting words weigh heavily on his mind: "Please save us from here."

His supporters have written to Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen and contacted the Edmonton offices of both Boissonnault and Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi. 

They continue to press the government to expedite the man's residency application.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada was not immediately able to provide comment.

andrea.huncar@cbc.ca      @andreahuncar