Supporters now want paralysed Sikh deported to India

February 20th, 2008 - 10:00 am ICT by admin  

Vancouver, Feb 20 (IANS) Prominent supporters of failed refugee claimant Laibar Singh, whose deportation to India was twice stopped by them, now want him to go back to India. Singh has been holed up in a gurdwara in the Vancouver suburb of Surrey since last month.

The Canadian Border Security Agency (CBSA) attempted to forcibly remove him from the temple in January but met with resistance from his supporters. An earlier CBSA attempt on Dec 10 was also blocked by them, forcing the authorities to let him stay on a $50,000 bond.

Entering Canada on a false passport in 2003, the 48-year-old Singh had sought refugee status, which was rejected after repeated requests even as he got paralysed in 2006. The management of the Surrey Guru Sikh Temple, where he is hiding, has granted him sanctuary.

But Canadian Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day says their laws don’t recognize the concept of sanctuary and Singh will have to go. But the authorities don’t want to hurt the sentiments of the community by entering the gurdwara forcibly to remove him.

Last week, the CBSA officials met various groups supporting Singh to find a solution to the case.

When contacted by IANS to know whether a deal was being worked out behind the scenes, Singh’s lawyer Zool Suleman said: “I don’t have any comment to make on it at the moment. Please contact me after March 7. I will not be available till then.”

However, Harjap Grewal, spokesperson for groups supporting Singh, said: “Nothing has changed. The CBSA stated the government’s position - that Singh has to go.”

He said it was an unprecedented case for them. “They are afraid that if Singh is allowed sanctuary, more people - refugees and criminals - will enter religious places to avoid deportations,” the spokesman said.

However, Balwant Gill, president of the Surrey Guru Nanak Sikh Temple where Singh is hiding, said: “I am sure they will not enter the gurdwara, though they have told us that they don’t recognize our resolution granting Singh sanctuary.”

Gill said a trust account opened to make donations to support Singh has not drawn a huge response.

Meanwhile, Harpal Singh Nagra, president of the South Asian Human Rights group that was in the forefront of fight for blocking Singh’s deportation, said: “Though the CBSA told us last week that they will not enter the Sikh temple, I would now prefer that Singh should go back to India.”

He said: “Singh himself wants to go back if he is guaranteed that he will get the money for his medical treatment in India. We will raise money for him. I think he can get good treatment in India.”

Earlier, the Indo-Asian community had promised to pick up his pending medical bills to the tune of $450,000, and pay $150,000 annually for his upkeep if he is allowed to stay in Canada. More than 40,000 people had signed a petition to the Canadian immigration minister to allow him to stay. As many as 19 MPs opposed his deportation, but Immigration Minister Diane Finley refused to consider his case.

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