WATCH: The Hungarian family that re-surfaced yesterday — a month after they were supposed to be deported — is speaking out tonight about finding refuge in a church. Jill Bennett reports.
An Abbotsford family ordered to leave Canada in November and seemingly vanished has now surfaced and been granted sanctuary by the Walnut Grove Lutheran Church.
The church’s pastor Karl Keller says the Juhasz family showed up on Nov. 30 and requested sanctuary.
“How could I say no to a family like this and what they’ve experienced and what they’ve gone through?” Keller said in a press conference this morning.
Originally from Hungary, Marianna Juhasz and her two sons Patrik and Tamas desperately want to stay in Canada. The trio fled their home in Hungary four years ago to allegedly escape domestic violence and child abuse. The family first arrived in Toronto and eventually settled in Abbotsford.
Juhasz applied to stay in the country on humanitarian grounds, but a federal court judge ruled there was no evidence to suggest their well-being would be threatened if they returned to their country of origin.
Keller says he believes mistakes were made in the process, especially when it comes to the needs of the children.
There have been concerns around Tamas’ mental health since counsellors said the 12-year-old threatened suicide if returned to Hungary.
With the support of friends and coworkers, the family fought the deportation but lost their appeal. The family was scheduled to leave on a flight to Budapest on Nov. 12 but never showed up to the airport.
At the time, the Canadian Border Services Agency could not confirm or deny if the deportation took place.
Now, the family has come forward to say they did not leave Canada and have been granted sanctuary at the Walnut Grove church. They told Global News they arrived at the church yesterday, but wouldn’t disclose where they were in the previous months.
One immigration lawyer noted the family has other options.
“The law there allows them to legally live and work in adjacent Western European countries,” said Richard Kurland, an immigration lawyer. “There’s no practical reason why they need to knock on Canada’s door for permanent residence.”
However Juhasz’s son Patrik, who was speaking on behalf of the family at this morning’s press conference, says going to another country is not an option.
“It’s one union, we will have to go back to Hungary first because that is where we came from,” Patrik says.
“Canada won’t send us to another country. If [Hungary] make an investigation of Tamas, they would call the local police and take Tamas, and mom would be arrested.”
Pastor Keller says the family asked many churches in Abbotsford and were denied.
The family still has a GoFundMe campaign running to help raise money for the family for food, homeschooling for Tamas and pay their immigration lawyer.
This is the second time the Walnut Grove Lutheran Church has granted sanctuary.
Salvadoran refugee Jose Figueroa, who was ordered deported on security grounds, was granted sanctuary in November 2013 by the church. Figueroa sought sanctuary to avoid deportation and separation from his wife and three Canadian-born children. He currently still lives in the church and continues to remain subject to a deportation order.
Both Figueroa and the Juhasz family are not the first to seek sanctuary in metro Vancouver.
Iranian refugee Amir Kazemian lived in constant fear for three years at St. Michael’s Anglican Church in Vancouver before he was granted permission to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. And lastly, Mikhail Lennikov, a former KGB agent, has been living at the First Lutheran Church in Vancouver for four years.