Church continues efforts to bring Pakistani family to the Cowichan

Church continues efforts to bring Pakistani family to the Cowichan

But immigration process may still take up to two years

It still may take up to two years for members of Mill Bay Baptist Fellowship Church to bring a Christian Pakistani family to the Valley from Thailand.

After spending several weeks in Thailand in January and February as part of ongoing efforts to bring the five-member Javed family to Canada, pastor Norm Sowden said the church is still waiting for Immigration Canada to process the family’s immigration papers.

RELATED STORY: COWICHAN GROUP HEADS TO THAILAND TO HELP REFUGEES

Sowden said he and Charles Lukas, a church member who accompanied him on the trip, tried to visit the Canadian embassy in Bangkok in an effort to expedite the process, but were turned away and told they must contact the embassy in Singapore with their concerns.

“They wouldn’t even let us upstairs in the embassy where the offices were,” he said.

“There are currently thousands of people in Thailand fleeing persecution in neighbouring countries. What we need is for the Canadian government to begin treating these people like citizens of Syria about five years ago who were fleeing from the war in their country and shorten the immigration process from several years to just three to five months.”

The Javed family was forced to flee their native Pakistan 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 his life from Muslim militants.

The pastor was able to flee to Thailand before being captured by the group, but when Azhar Javed, the family’s father, 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, as refugees, before they were captured.

But their visitor’s visa eventually expired and Azhar had been detained by Thai authorities for more than two years in Bangkok’s decrepit and overcrowded Immigration Detention Centre before being sent to another centre outside the capital, while his family continues to hide to avoid extradition back to Pakistan.

RELATED STORY: CHURCH LEADING CHARGE TO BRING FAMILY TO CANADA

“The family’s situation is increasingly desperate,” Sowden said.

“The children can’t go to school, or a hospital if they are sick, and have to stay in most of the time for fear of getting picked up by the authorities and incarcerated themselves. The mother, Aysia, who is a nurse, spends all her time cleaning houses for money for food and rent. She’s under a lot of pressure.”

As for the father, Azhar, Sowden said that while he’s living in squalid conditions while in detention, he still manages to lead bible studies and prayer times at the centre.

“We were only allowed to talk to him just a few times at the facility while we were there,” he said.

“I was touched when he told us not to worry about him, just to keep helping his family and pray the immigration papers will be processed soon and the family can come to the Valley.”

Sowden said now that’s he’s back home, he’ll continue his efforts to have the family’s immigration papers expedited by the Canadian government, and he is scheduling a meeting with Alistair MacGregor, MP for Cowichan-Malahat-Langford, to discuss the issue, and encourages other people to contact their MPs as well.

RELATED STORY: SYRIAN KIDS ALL SMILES FOR SCHOOL IN COWICHAN

Sowden also spent some time in a hospital in Koh Samui, Thailand, after contracting a strain of the H1N1 flu virus, the most common flu virus that circulates each year.

He said he was “incredibly happy and thrilled” with the medical personnel at the facility.

“I have only good things to say about the quality of medical care I received while there,” Sowden said.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Immigration

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tim Schewe
DriveSmart: Police Powers

By Tim Schewe If you are stopped by the police, just what… Continue reading

A COVID-19 exposure has been reported at Drinkwater Elementary School dating to Feb. 25. (Google Street View image)
COVID-19 exposure reported at Drinkwater Elementary

Possible exposures occurred on Thursday, Feb. 25

A graphic design of the new RCMP detachment which will be located on a five-acre property bordering Ford Road and Drinkwater Road. (File graphic)
Heavy trucks not allowed shortcut during construction of RCMP detachment

North Cowichan won’t allow heavy trucks on Drinkwater Road where not designated

The site of Sunfest, Laketown Ranch, will be open for camping this summer. (Citizen file)
Laketown Ranch to welcome campers this summer

Sunfest site will provide camping amenities between May and September

‘I chose my children’s breakfasts purely based on what dishes would fit best into the dishwasher.’ (Bobbi Venier photo)
Sarah Simpson Column: Delayed gratification and the benefits of efficiency

I was driving with just my daughter the other day and we… Continue reading

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Dasher is back home with mom Christine Girvin thanks to some help from BC Ferries staff. Photo supplied
The cat came back, with help from BC Ferries staff

After Dasher made a dash, staff in Comox found her and got her home safe

1957 photo shows Six Mile House-sponsored #4 1932 Ford stock car with Frank Morris (from left), Ted Mackenzie, Bill Sim and driver Gerry Sylvester. (Bud Glover/Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame)
Memories race as Western Speedway approaches its finish line

‘It was life to us:’ Vancouver Island racers, crew will never forget what the track gave them

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

BC Ferries experienced heavy traffic on Feb. 27 following cancellations the day before due to strong winds and adverse weather. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries sailings fill up quickly after Friday cancellations due to high winds

Waits expected on Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route, Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Most Read