Deportation delayed for PSW and single mother who worked on the front line during COVID-19


A personal support worker who was deported to Uganda while working on the front lines during COVID-19 for the past three years was granted a brief reprieve, days after CBC Toronto released account of his fate.

Fatumah Najjuma, a 29-year-old single mother of a Canadian-born baby girl, faced deportation on January 7, despite applying for humanitarian and compassionate considerations months earlier.

Now, after going public with her story on CBC Toronto, her deportation has been postponed until March 30, giving her valuable extra time during which she hopes to gain status in Canada.

« I prayed and other people prayed, » Najjuma said Wednesday after hearing the news. « I’m so grateful to everyone for their support. »

In particular, Najjuma thanked the nearly 40,000 supporters who signed an online petition to have his deportation suspended and the advocacy groups who raised awareness of his case, including the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change.

« The migrant organization has won another deportation postponement, but Fatumah remains in an anxious limbo with an uncertain future; we need permanent solutions for everyone and that means permanent residency for all, » said said the group’s chief executive, Syed Hussan.

Upcoming policy change for undocumented workers

As previously reported, Najjuma faced deportation even as the federal government pledged a year ago to do more to give status to undocumented workers.

Najjuma said she fled Uganda while pregnant in 2018 after saying she had been disowned by her family and had her life put in danger for her religious and social affiliations.

For three years, she worked as a personal support worker in long-term and home care homes, including during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a role she says she’s found meaning in, despite privately facing the terror of losing the life she’s built in the safety of Canada.

« My mental health is deteriorating every day. I don’t sleep, I don’t eat… Every day that passes, I’m more scared, » she told CBC Toronto.

Najjuma is pictured here with her daughter on her third birthday in March 2022. This is the last time she says she remembers being happy. Shortly after, she received an eviction order and could still face separation from her baby girl. (Submitted by Fatumah Najjuma)

Canada had pushed for Najuma’s deportation in January despite federal Immigration Minister Sean Fraser’s mandate issued by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last year, which includes working to « further explore ways to regularize the status of undocumented workers who contribute to Canadian communities”.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada says work is ongoing, but it cannot comment on programs or policies being developed.

It means that while a change could soon arrive to ease the path to permanent residency for those like Najjuma, she could still be deported to Uganda while the details are ironed out – something Hussan says is ‘irrational’ as a policy change is underway.

It also means that Najjuma could either be separated from her three-year-old daughter, Ilham; or her daughter could be forced to uproot herself in a country where her mother says her life too would be in danger.

“No question of finding exceptional cases”

The postponement of Najjuma’s deportation also comes after another personal support worker and her son who were at risk of being torn from their Canadian family members finally received their permanent resident status last week.

Nike Okafor and his son, Sydney, had been in Canada for 19 years and were waiting for their sponsorship application to be processed when they suddenly received a deportation order from the Canada Border Services Agency.

As CBC Toronto reported, their nightmare finally came to an end last Monday, when they learned that their application for permanent residence had been approved.

Federal Immigration Minister Sean Fraser recently met with about 100 undocumented migrant leaders from across the country, to hear from them directly, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said. (Patrick Swadden/CBC)

But for Hussan, « it’s not about finding exceptional cases, but about tackling an unfair and discriminatory system that denies people permanent residency…then tears them away from their communities and puts them in situations at risk ».

According to the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, there are around half a million undocumented people in Canada, and another 1.2 million have study and work permits or are seeking asylum – many of whom do not. have no access to basic services and are operated by owners or workers.

Thousands of people have been deported or face deportation since the immigration mandate a year ago, according to the group.

« Not completely relieved »

The IRCC says tens of thousands of temporary workers transition to permanent status each year. Of the 406,000 foreign nationals who became permanent residents in 2021, almost 169,000 of them left the status of worker.

The Canada Border Services Agency previously told CBC Toronto that it cannot comment on individual cases for confidentiality reasons, but it has a legal obligation to remove people who are inadmissible to Canada under of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and who have removal orders in place.

“The decision to remove someone from Canada is not taken lightly,” the CBSA said, adding that the agency only acts on a removal order “once all avenues of appeal have been exhausted”.

With her deportation postponed, Najjuma told CBC Toronto that she hoped her request would be processed before time ran out.

« Until the storm clears, I’m not completely relieved, » she said.

« All I want is to stay with my daughter, to be with her, to raise her in this country and not anywhere else. »


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