A ‘Snowden Refugee’ Still Waiting for Canadian Asylum

Of the seven “Snowden refugees”, so nicknamed because they helped the American whistleblower during his escape, only one remains stranded in Hong Kong. Ajith Pushpakumara, a former Sri Lankan soldier, is still waiting for the Canadian authorities to rule on his fate and grant him asylum, as they did last week for four of his associates.

Supun Thilina Kellapatha and Nadeeka Dilrukshi Nonis, in their thirties, along with their two children aged 9 and 5, landed in Toronto late Tuesday afternoon, September 28. The family then moved to Montreal and Supun’s other daughter, Keana. The 9-year-old arrived in Canada in March 2019 with his mother, Vanessa Rodel, a figure of the “Guardian Angels of Snowden” with the help, too, of the Canadian NGO For the Refugees.

Mediated by Oliver Stone’s film

These refugees, immigrants from the Philippines and Sri Lanka settled in Hong Kong to flee the violence in their countries of origin, were made famous by the film Snowden, by Oliver Stone, released in 2016. We discovered the little-known role of these seven people in the flight, in May 2013, of Edward Snowden, a former American intelligence subcontractor who had just given journalists secret documents. on the existence of a global surveillance system created by the United States. The latter then lodged and hid the whistleblower on the island before he left for Russia, where he still resides.

The families had tried for ten years to regularize their situation in Hong Kong

In the wake of the film’s release, the refugees and their Canadian lawyers simultaneously filed asylum claims with the authorities in Ottawa in January 2017. Before coming to Canada, the families had tried for ten years to regularize their situation in Hong Kong, “Country recognized to offer asylum to less than 1% of applicants”reminded the World Robert Tibbo, their lawyer himself forced into exile since November 2017.

“The Canadian authorities have already done the right thing by admitting six of Edward Snowden’s seven guardian angels to Canada, and what we are asking now is that we admit the last person before it is too late. “, lawyer Marc-André Séguin, president and founder of For the Refugees, told AFP. The Montreal organization deplores the slowness of the process with the Canadian authorities and the different deadlines for each of the seven refugees.

The current political and social climate in Hong Kong has heightened the fear of For the Refugees and lawyer Robert Tibbo for the safety of Ajith Pushpakumara. He is all the more vulnerable since he is now alone in Hong Kong and the “guardian angels” were already the subject of administrative persecution and threats, as the lawyer explained at length in World in 2019.