B.C. refugee claimant ready to return to India
A paralyzed refugee claimant who sought refuge in British Columbia Sikh temples says he is ready to leave his sanctuary and return to India.
Laibar Singh has lived in two temples in the Vancouver area since he was ordered deported in December 2007, successfully avoiding three attempts to return him to India.
Swarn Gill, president of the Abbotsford, B.C., temple where Singh is living, said Thursday the widower misses his four children back home in India.
"He's sad for a few things," Gill said. "He started thinking about going to see his family because he doesn't know how long he will live."
Singh also fears he could be arrested if he leaves the temple because officials with the Canada Border Services Agency have warned him that's what will happen, Gill said.
"When they come down to talk to him they always tell him, `If you go out (and) we catch you we (will) deport you right away.' This is something that's going through his mind all the time."
Singh's lawyer declined to comment but Gill said the paralyzed man, in his 50s, no longer has hope that the Canadian government will allow him to stay in Canada on compassionate grounds.
Singh used a false passport to enter Canada in 2003 and fled from Toronto to Vancouver, where he suffered an aneurysm that left him a quadriplegic.
Gill said he is among those who have financially supported Singh during his stay at the temple but that he understands the man is stressed about his situation after almost two years of waiting to learn his fate.
"There's nothing we can do now," he said. "Because he wait so long and we waited so long for Immigration (to let him) stay here."
Gill said that in January, he and his wife visited Singh's children in a small village in the Punjab province of India.
"His family's poor," he said, adding Singh's wife died in the early 1990s.
Singh's supporters have called on the Canadian government to let him remain in Canada, saying he wouldn't get adequate health care in India.
Gill said he is also concerned about that, but added there's a large city near Singh's village, where he could get some of the services he needs.
He said Singh is better able to move his hands and arms now because of physiotherapy he receives twice a week at the temple, where a specialist and a family doctor also visit him regularly.
All the services are donated, Gill said.
Officials from the Canada Border Services Agency arrested Singh at a hospital in July 2007, shortly after he moved into the temple and went for treatment.
Singh claimed refugee status, saying authorities in India falsely linked him to a terrorist group and would arrest him if he went back there.
But his claim was denied after an investigation by immigration officials concluded his fears of being tortured by Punjabi police weren't credible.
Plans to deport Singh have been thwarted several times by his supporters, who have said he isn't well enough to make the long journey.
In January, about 250 protesters showed up in the early-morning hours at a Surrey, B.C., temple after hearing officials would be removing Singh for deportation.
And last December, thousands of people surrounded a car delivering Singh to Vancouver International Airport for deportation, forcing immigration officials to abandon the deportation.