Thai victims of human trafficking can stay in Canada

In what may be a precedent-setting case, 19 Thai farm workers, victims of human trafficking, are being allowed to stay another two years in Canada so they have time to apply for permanent residency.

Temporary permits extended 2 years for 19 Thai farm workers

Nineteen 19 Thai farm workers who were victims of human trafficking are being allowed to stay in Canada another two years so they'll have time to apply for permanent residency.

In what could be a precedent-setting case, the workers no longer face being sent to jail or deported.

The workers paid recruiters in Thailand up to $10,000 each to bring them to Canada to work for employers who in some cases were abusive.

"[The ruling] is empowering for workers," said Cathy Kolar, an immigration specialist who represented the workers at a hearing of the Canadian Immigration Board, which decided in their favour. "It's empowering for future victims, because this sets a precedent [that] Canada is not going to dispose of you."

"We got two more years," Darasat Songwiset said. "Thank you very much for the Immigration [Department]."

She came to Canada five years ago, looking for a better life. 

"In Thailand, no money — when I no work, my mom, my daughter no eat  — no money," Songwiset said.  

When a recruiter told her she could earn $2,000 a month working in Canada, it was a no-brainer, even if it meant leaving her daughter behind.  She paid a recruiter $10,000 to find her work in Leamington. 

That turned out to be a bad move.

"At this place [where she was hired], passports were confiscated, rules were set," Kolar said. "They couldn't leave. They worked a lot of time for free."

She said the federal government's temporary foreign worker program is flawed because it doesn't provide enough protection for the workers.

Until the board decision, the workers could have been jailed or deported.

"As soon as you leave the employer you are designated to work for, even if that is an abusive relationship, you are in violation of the terms of your stay in Canada," Kolar said.

With a renewed hope in the system, and a job that pays a fair wage — all 19 are now working on farms in the Windsor area — Songwiset said she can start working to bring her mother and daughter to Canada too.