Efforts to bring a five-member Pakistani family to the Cowichan Valley continue after Immigration Canada turned the family down last year.
Pastor Norm Sowden, from the Mill Bay Baptist Fellowship Church that is spearheading the campaign to bring the Azhar family to Canada, said a lawyer was hired to appeal Immigration Canada’s decision and determined that a proper risk assessment of the case was not made.
“Our case was so strong and powerful that the Department of Justice Canada invited us to make another application rather than having to take it to court,” Sowden said.
“But the stress of the situation was so bad on the father (Azhar Javed) that he suffered a stroke and had to be hospitalized, which cost us quite a lot of money. We’ll be holding another fundraiser on May 13 to help pay for the hospital and other many expenses involved in trying to bring this family to Canada.”
The Azhar family was forced to flee their native Pakistan a number of years ago because they hid pastor Sarfraz Sagar, the religious leader at that country’s Lighthouse Pentecostal Church, which they attended, in their home due to fear for Sagar’s life from Muslim militants.
The pastor was able to flee to Thailand before being captured by the group, but when Azhar Javed became aware that he and his family had also been targeted by the militant group for hiding Sagar, the family fled to Thailand as well before they were captured.
But their visitor’s visa eventually expired and Azhar had been detained by Thai authorities for more than three years in Bangkok’s decrepit and overcrowded immigration detention centres before finally being freed after the Mill Bay church and another church in Pakistan raised money for bail.
The family’s situation in Thailand has become increasingly desperate as Azhar is not officially permitted to work there, and he has to take odd jobs when available to keep the family fed.
They also must keep moving around out of fear of being arrested and/or deported back to Pakistan.
“We are hoping and praying that this time Immigration Canada will pursue a thorough risk assessment and they will be allowed to come in short order so that [Azhar] may receive adequate treatment, the children can get into school and [wife] Asyia can get some type of work in health care,” Sowden said.
Sowden said his church is hosting an Ancestry Fair Refugee Fundraiser on May 15 at 2095 Dickson Rd. in Mill Bay, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
“The Sarfraz family will be making Pakistani specialties as a main course and we will have 14 different tables representing various cultures and nationalities who will be offering tasting of their favourite foods, as well as a stories of their backgrounds,” he said.
“In addition, the Mill Bay Historical Society will be presenting several great features of Mill Bay’s early founders and their backgrounds. Fundraising is really key for us right now as we have spent a year appealing the rejection of the Azhar family.”
Tickets for the fundraiser are $15 for adults, and $5 for kids aged five to 10 years old.
Children under five are free.
Call 250-715-5788 for more information.