Khurshid Begum Awan leaves Montreal Anglican church refuge for medical care

MONTREAL — After nearly a year under the protection of a Montreal Anglican church, an ailing Pakistani woman desperately needs medical care and must leave the sanctuary.

Fifty-eight-year-old Khurshid Begum Awan took refuge in the church in order to avoid deportation back to Pakistan, where her family believes her life is endangered by Muslim extremists.

However, Awan’s health has been steadily deteriorating and her medical health coverage has expired, leaving her without any access to medication or health services.

Watch raw video: Refugee seeks asylum in Montreal church

The family’s decision for their mother to turn herself in was taken under considerable duress. Her daughter is hoping that her mother may be granted permanent residency.

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“More than ever, my mother has been suffering psychologically,” said Tahira Malik on Monday.

“We could have never imagined the kind of circumstances she has found herself in. She came here to join me and Ali, and to live in safety with us. Only with some kind of stability will she be able to make a full recovery.”

On August 5, Awan presented herself to Citizenship and Immigration Canada in order to obtain her Pre-Removal Risk Assessment application, which could potentially allow her to regularize her status.

The family’s lawyer is asking that the potential danger that Awan could face if returned to Pakistan is considered.

“Both the general situation of targeted violence of religious minorities in Pakistan and the personal dangers that Mrs Awan and her husband face have as of yet to be properly taken into consideration,” said Stewart Istvaffy.

This brief reprieve comes with a temporary renewal of her health coverage and means Awan may have access to much-needed health services.

“There is no doubt in our mind that full access to health services, both urgent care and regular follow-up is essential to Mrs. Awan.” said Dr. Marie-Jo Ouimet, who works with Médecins du Monde and has been one of Awan’s treating doctors.

“We believe that the four hospitalizations that occurred these past months would have been prevented had she had access to these services this past year.”

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In many respects, the family’s experience highlights the situation many migrants living in Canada without status endure on a regular basis.

Watch: Janet Dench from the Canadian Council for Refugees on the issues faced