A refugee claimant from Lebanon is pleading with Ottawa to give his family permission to come to visit him while he receives treatment for terminal cancer. His request was turned down once already but his lawyer and doctors are now calling on the immigration minister to make an exception out of compassion.
“Everyday I talk to them, my children say ‘When we can see you?'” Taha El Taha said while wiping his tears. “I cannot go back because my life is in danger there.”
El Taha is a stateless Palestinian who was living in Lebanon. He flew to the United States last fall and ended up crossing into Canada on foot through Roxham Road in December.
The electrical engineer was arrested and detained and as a refugee claimant, forced to take a routine medical exam. That’s when doctors discovered he had a rare, terminal and advanced Stage 4 colorectal cancer, called pseudomyxoma peritonei. It has spread to his abdomen and chest.
“They said I’m still young so chemotherapy may help,” he told Global News from his Ville St-Laurent apartment.
The 36-year-old has spent the last four months in and out of hospital, alone with no support system.
“I hope that the visa office in Beirut will consider the humanitarian aspect of Taha’s case,” immigration consultant Rami Alsaqqa said. “It’s very exceptional circumstances.”
The visitors’ visa application for his wife and two children was recently refused and now his lawyer and medical team are calling on the federal immigration minister to make an exception and allow them to come to Canada during his treatment.
“They have definitely made this exception before and I was an intermediate in this process,” said Alsaqqa regarding a permanent resident he represented from the Gaza Strip in 2015 who also happened to be suffering from terminal cancer. “Mr. Jason Kenney (former immigration minister) had a visa ready for that family within 48 hours.”
El Taha has undergone several rounds of intensive chemotherapy treatment and he’s scheduled for emergency surgery as early as next week. His treating physician is also calling for urgent action. In a letter of support dated Jan. 31, he wrote:
“Knowing that he has this life-threatening illness, he would greatly benefit from the presence of his wife and children…”
More recently, on April 16, his surgeon wrote: “Mr El-Taha was unaware of this diagnosis when he arrived in Canada… We feel it would be beneficial to him to have the support and comfort of his wife and children in the face of the unfortunate diagnosis and upcoming major surgery.”
His wife hopes the family will make it to Canada before it’s too late.
“I hope that we be able to take that visa to see our, my husband,” Amani El Khatib said from her home in Saida, Lebanon. “I miss him very much.”
For now, he’s cherishing uplifting videos he’s received from his children and daily messenger video calls with them.
But he wants nothing more than to wake up from surgery with his wife and two children by his side.
“I don’t have much time to wait,” El Taha said. “It’s a very lethal disease.”