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Stop deporting women escaping violence, activists say

October 02, 2008 - The Toronto Star

Refugee and women's activists are calling for an immediate stay on deportation orders against immigrant women trying to stay in Canada as a sanctuary against violence.

Amnesty International and the YWCA joined the immigrant rights group No One Is Illegal today to demand the four federal parties take a stand on an immigration system that they say doesn't live up to Canada's own policies of human rights protection.

"Canada was one of the first countries to recognize" violence against women as grounds for a refugee claim, said the YWCA's Ann Dector. "We honour that on paper but not in practice."

One arm of the Immigration and Refugee Board has guidelines about women asking for refugee status because of domestic violence, but not all parts of the system follow that, said Dector.

The New Democrats and the Green Party sent letters of support to the campaign. The Liberals promised a response in seven days. The Tories haven't replied.

The campaign is also calling for: a clear policy to stop federal or local authorities from going into shelters to hand over deportation orders.

"We know of a number of instances where women have been arrested, detained and deported" while in shelters, said Cindy Cowan, who organized the news conference.

All of the groups, as well as the NDP and the Greens, urged immediate action in the case of Isabel Garcia, a Mexican woman who with her children has gone underground since losing her appeals to stay in Canada. She came to Toronto three years ago to get away from her violent ex-husband.

Immigration authorities told her she could get state protection from her husband in Mexico, where four women are murdered each day, said Farrah Miranda of No One Is Illegal.