May 8, 2018 6:59 pm
Updated: May 8, 2018 7:30 pm

EXCLUSIVE: Calls for immigration minister to reconsider request from terminally ill refugee claimant

Tue, May 8: Support is growing for a terminally-ill refugee's request for his family from Lebanon to temporarily visit him in Canada. As Global's Anne Leclair reports in this exclusive follow-up, a human rights lawyer is calling on the federal immigration minister to reconsider the case.

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A high-profile human rights lawyer in Montreal is calling on the federal immigration minister to reconsider the case of a terminally ill refugee claimant requesting to see his family in Canada before he dies.

Global News first reported the story on May 2. After being refused once, the claimant’s family is in the process of submitting a second request, hoping to have more luck.

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“It really requires intervention from the minister’s office, the minister’s cabinet to say that they should be allowed in,” human rights lawyer Stewart Istvanffy said. “This is a great county and we’ve helped a lot of people.”

Taha El Taha is gearing up for pre-operative tests at the MUHC on Wednesday, in preparation for his upcoming surgery where doctors will remove a tumour in his chest and inject massive doses of chemotherapy.

“I know the side effects of chemo — it’s very hard and difficult,” refugee claimant El Taha said. “To be honest, my wife is afraid that I will not make it.”

The 36-year-old Stateless Palestinian from Lebanon was diagnosed with advanced Stage 4 colorectal cancer shortly after he arrived in Canada at Roxham Road’s illegal border crossing late last year.

READ MORE: Terminally ill refugee claimant from Lebanon desperate to bring family to Canada

In a last attempt to be reunited, the El Taha family is in the process of filing a new request, this time for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) for his wife and two children.

Their previous request for a visitor’s visa was denied since the immigration officer wasn’t convinced they would return to Lebanon.

“Being a Palestinian in Lebanon is to be very much in a second-class citizen position with access to health, education,” Istvanffy said. “There’s a situation of great tension in the country, there’s a rise of the Islamists there and Stateless Palestinians are on the wrong end of every type of problem in that country.”

Legal experts believe El Taha’s family would have a better chance if he had official refugee status, but his hearing was recently postponed indefinitely due to an influx of refugee claimants. The hope is that the immigration minister will see the urgency and issue the TRP for his three family members.

“This kind of humanitarian situation, it’s hard not to feel strongly about a dying man and his family and their last chance to see each other,” Istvanffy told Global News. “I would hope that they would let the family in so this man could end his days with his family around him.”

The latest statistics from 2016 show that the immigration ministry granted 596 TPR applications that year for people who were inadmissible under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

“I do understand that he came to Canada through irregular arrival,” El Taha’s immigration consultant said. “The fact of the matter is he’s in Canada now, he deserves to have the emotional support during his treatment.”

Despite his family’s fears, El Taha is trying to stay positive and now that his story has gone public, he finally has hope.

“We hope the minister will help us this time.”

READ MORE: Kidney cancer patient in the Laurentians wins fight for less invasive treatment in Montreal

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