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Students protest deportation of peer and his family

Posted in

Julie Slack
October 1, 2008

More than 50 University of Toronto Mississauga students were among a large group protesting the deportation of a city student and his parents Sept. 30 in Toronto.

Bangladeshi immigrant Badrul and Shammi Alam and their son, Saad, lost their bid for refugee status in 2004. They had launched two appeals, one based on compassionate grounds, the other on fear of persecution. Both were unsuccessful and the family's deportation has been set for this Friday.
Saad Alam, 23, is entering his third year toward a life sciences and psychology degree at U of T's St. George campus.

"It's not a fair decision but I understand we have to go back," said his father, whose appeal was based on the risk of harm because of his Jatiya Party connections in Bangladesh.

The Alams have lived in the GTA for five years. Before that, they lived for nine years in the United States. Their claim for refugee status was rejected in the U.S. where they were living illegally. From the U.S. they came to Canada and settled in Mississauga.

"He's lived here (in the West) all his life, this is his home," said UTM student and Mississauga resident Fariah Chowdhury, who, when she heard about his plight, immediately jumped into action, organizing the student-led protest at the St. George campus.

Saad is an upstanding member of the U of T community, Chowdhury said. He won a scholarship to U of T in recognition of his outstanding academic achievements. Once in university, he participated in student organizations and was vice-president of the Bangladeshi Students' Federation. He helped co-launch the youth magazine, Probashi Tarunno, which captures the many voices of South Asian youth.

The protest attracted numerous student organizations from across Ontario including the U of T and UTM students' unions and Bengali student associations. Amnesty International also lent its support.
"It went great. It was amazing," said Chowdhury following the noon protest. "There were hundreds of students there, despite the (rain)."

The gathering sent a petition, signed by thousands of UTM faculty, administration and students, to Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Diane Findlay asking her to grant Saad's humanitarian and compassionate application allowing him to stay in Canada.

Chowdhury is an organizer with No One is Illegal, a group of immigrants, refugees, trade unionists, students and allies who fight for the rights of all migrants to live with dignity and respect. Earlier this year, they worked to reverse the deportation order of York University student Sara Leonte.

Chowdhury is also working with the Canadian Federation of Students in seeking a sanctuary policy, dubbed Don't Ask Don't Tell, for post-secondary schools province- and nation-wide.

"It would mean that no immigration officers can come on campus," she said. "All students should be able to access education regardless of status."

The Alams' lawyer, Anita Balakrishna, says the federal government has been cracking down on illegal immigrants recently. "They're very strict about removals these days. It's a reaction to the auditor general's report (which found that there were a minimum of 41,000 people living illegally in Canada)."

Balakrishna tried to get Saad a temporary permit to study, but the strict deportation orders require the family make all their applications from Bangladesh, she said.