The Doc Project

Mother of two hides in Fort McMurray to avoid deportation

A Namibian woman, the mother of two Canadian-born children, has gone into hiding in Fort McMurray because she fears deportation. Ngurimuje Mujoro's spouse has applied to sponsor her as a permanent resident, but the Canada Border Services Agency says a pending application does not stay a removal.

Namibian woman's spouse has applied to sponsor her, but removal order still remains

Ngurimuje Mujoro flanked by her Canadian-born children Marvelous, 6, and Juliette, 2. The family was ordered to be deported to Namibia by Canada Border Services Agency last summer. (Thandiwe Konguavi/CBC)
Listen to the full episode27:50

Last summer, Ngurimuje Mujoro deliberately missed the flight back to her birth country of Namibia from Edmonton International Airport. 

Booked by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) in a bid to remove her from the country, the deportation would have separated Mujoro from her husband, who is a permanent resident.

Mujoro's two Canadian-born children were also booked on that flight. 

"This land is a good land for them," she said. "How could they suffer just because of me?"

Mujoro's refugee claim was rejected in 2012. However, the 28-year-old has remained in Canada ever since, getting married and having two children, Marvelous, 6, and Juliette, 2. 

Mujoro and her husband Bhelle outside the Edmonton International airport on April 25, 2019, when Mujoro was first scheduled to be deported. Mujoro accidentally missed that flight, but when the flight was rescheduled for a few weeks later, she decided not to present herself. (Thandiwe Konguavi/CBC)

But it wasn't until February 2019 that the CBSA came knocking on her door.

Last year, after that visit, Mujoro's husband applied to sponsor her to become a permanent resident. But the pending application did not prevent the CBSA from trying to deport her.

"An application for permanent residence on humanitarian and compassionate grounds similar to spousal sponsorship does not stay a removal," said CBSA spokesperson Jacqueline Callin.

Despite the risk of drawing attention to herself and being found by border officers, Mujoro says she is speaking out "so that they can try to change something or hear us ... because we need help in this."

"[People] have to know that this is what happens for some of us in Canada."

'They might be shipped out on the next ticket'

Twenty-one Namibian nationals were deported last year, according to figures from the CBSA. As of Jan. 20, another 62 had removal orders in various stages of the process. 

Venomambo Usurua, president of the Namibian Canadian Association in Fort McMurray, Alta., says he knows of about 30 Namibians who were arrested by the Canada Border Services Agency in 2019. (Thandiwe Konguavi/CBC)

Venomambo Usurua, president of the Namibian Canadian Association in Fort McMurray, Alta., says he knows of about 30 Namibians who were arrested in immigration crackdowns last year. Usurua says some are still detained at the Edmonton Remand Centre, some have been bailed out and are complying with CBSA reporting requirements, and some have already been deported.

"Their cases are still pending and here they just get picked up and put into detention, not knowing if they will ever come out or not knowing if they get bond," he said. "Maybe they might not get bond, they might be shipped out on the next ticket out."

The CBSA says Namibian nationals were not being targeted for removal.

The number of removals overall grew in 2019 to 10,397 people from around 7,000 in 2018. In 2018, the agency set a national goal of 10,000 removals a year.

Removals only take place once all legal avenues have been exhausted in order to maintain the integrity of Canada's immigration system, Callin said.

Life in hiding

After deliberately missing her flight last June, Mujoro went into hiding in Fort McMurray — far from the life she pictured when she first arrived in Canada in 2011.

Back in the hot and sandy village district of Otjinene, Namibia, she lived carefree until she became pregnant in the tenth grade. 

Her parents took in her baby, but shunned her.

Mujoro says she was homeless for a year, then learned from friends that she could claim asylum in Canada.

Her estranged parents allowed her to sell the cows they had given her as a child to secure her flight ticket. On boarding that flight, a weight was lifted.

"I just feel good since I get on the flight. There was peace, you know?"

After arriving in Canada, she applied for refugee status. 

While awaiting the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada's decision, she met her husband in Toronto — also an asylum seeker from Namibia — and moved to Fort McMurray for work.

Mujoro's refugee claim was rejected in 2012, while her husband's was approved in 2017. 

As of Jan. 20, there were 62 Namibian nationals with removal orders in various stages of the process, according to the CBSA. (Canada Border Services Agency)

'What is so desperate for them to try to split the family up?'

While they await her sponsorship application, the spectre of Mujoro being arrested again by the CBSA remains. 

She says she is not taking the chance of reporting to CBSA, risking being sent back to await her sponsorship application in Namibia with her Canadian-born children, away from their father.

"The thing that I fear is for them to divide us," she said. "What is so desperate for them to try to split the family up?

"Our request is for them to start seeing the importance of being a family first ... not to deport people that have applications that are in the process." 

CBSA spokesperson Callin says if the parents of Canadian children must be removed from Canada, then travel of the children can be facilitated to keep the family together. 

"Every effort is made to preserve the family unit," she said. 

Knowing that she could be arrested at any time — when she's walking her son to school or making a rare trip to the grocery store — preys on Mujoro's mind. 

"Even if you have to go and buy something from the store or whatever, you might think, 'These people, they're even following me.'

"You don't even want to look behind because they may touch you or they may say, 'Oh, sorry ma'am. We are looking for you.'"

About the Producer

Thandiwe Konguavi is an adventurous and tenacious award-winning journalist with a passion for people, stories, and social justice. She is an associate producer and reporter at CBC Edmonton and has previously worked across Canada and abroad in Toronto, Yellowknife, Saskatoon and in her native country Zimbabwe.
 
She is proud to be Canadian and has been gripped by the high stakes stories of new migrants who contribute to the rich cultural fabric of Canada aspiring to live peacefully here with their families.

This documentary was produced by Alison Cook and made through the Doc Mentorship Program.

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