[Marxism] interview with palestinian refugee in vancouver

Macdonald Stainsby mstainsby at resist.ca
Fri Apr 9 00:45:50 MDT 2004

forum with state-less palestinians in vancouver
palestine center 1874 kinsway
friday april 9 @ 6:30 pm


Canada Discriminates Against Stateless Palestinians

A Palestinian refugee living in Vancouver, was recently denied refugee
status. The Immigration & Refugee Board (IRB) member ruled that he was
Jordanian and therefore could return to Jordan without any risks, despite
the fact that all his documents prove that he is Palestinian. The denial
of his identity as a Palestinian refugee is a blatant violation by the IRB
and reveals the discrimination against Palestinian refugees. Approximately
another 100 Palestinian refugees are facing deportation from Canada.

Interview by Johanna, a Vancouver resident and an activist with the
International Solidarity Movement. She can be reached at
johanna at ism-vancouver.org

“No One Is Illegal” is a volunteer activist collective in Vancouver, who
stands up for the rights of Refugees, Immigrants and Indigenous people. If
you want more information on supporting his case or want to get more
information about refugee rights, contact  noii-van at resist.ca

* Please explain your background as a Palestinian, how you have had to
move around.

I am a Palestinian who was born in Jordan to Palestinian parents, while my
family was visiting there. I lived in Kuwait with my parents, where my
father was working, until they passed away. After their death, I moved to
the West Bank city of Qalquilia in 1980, with my siblings, to live with my
grandparents. During the first uprising, I wanted to get out of the West
Bank, out of the horrible conditions that I lived in under occupation. I
went to Jordan with my brother to try to get residence status, since two
of my siblings were residents, but because of the Jordanian Laws at the
time, we were denied. That’s when I decided to apply for a student visa
for the United States. Once in the States, I applied for refugee status as
a Palestinian I could never get any status in the US. Due to negligence on
the part of my representatives my claim was rejected. In 2002, I came to
Canada and applied for asylum. This is the fifth country that I have had
to move to.

* Describe the living conditions in Qalquilia under occupation, during the
first uprising. What kinds of dangers were you facing?

Living under occupation was tough before the uprising, after the start of
the uprising, the violent oppression from the Israeli army was worse. My
life was turned upside-down. We were under constant curfews, without
electricity, without water and without phones. I remember the longest
curfew, when I was there, was 27 days. Every four days we had two hours to
go out shopping and there was still no guarantee that you would be safe.
If one stone were thrown at the Israeli soldiers in that time, curfew
would be immediately enforced again with arrests, beatings and shootings.
One day during curfew, we heard a bang at the door from the Israeli army.
My brother and I knew what was going to happen, because we had seen it
many times before. They took my brother and I to the station a kilometer
away and beat us there. While we were at the station, we witnessed the
most horrifying beatings by the Israeli army, against seven Palestinian
men. It’s the scariest thing in my life, the soldiers were beating them so
hard that the batons were breaking upon impact. The use of batons in this
way was a standard Israeli army policy at the time, known as “The Policy
of Limb Breaking”. We spent a day and a half there until they released us
in the middle of the night. Being seen on the street during curfew, a lot
of the times meant being shot at by the army. It was dangerous. My life
totally changed after that, nine months into the first uprising. It was
the most horrible time. I still suffer from that. There were also Israeli
settlers driving through town, shooting randomly. There is no way to
describe the fear and the horror when there’s nothing you can do. I almost
went crazy.

* What does it mean to you to be a stateless person, how is this effecting
your life?

It is very difficult to be a Palestinian citizen, because nobody wants
you. You are very limited to where you can go, if anywhere at all. Because
of Israeli laws, I can’t go back to Palestine, because I have been out of
the West Bank for more than seven years. I back to Jordan, because I am
not a citizen there. There is nowhere for me to go. It’s really hard to
explain how I feel now. I’m kind of sick of my life. I just want a place
where I can live peacefully. I’m always in fear. Just the thought of me
being sent back to Palestine scares me. It is much worse now then it was
when I was there. It’s really frustrating not having any kind of
citizenship or any place to go. I have sent letters to the UNHCR about my
situation and I really hope that they will help me find a solution or an
alternative place to go.

* What are the steps you have gone through in the refugee process in Canada?

The first step is the hearing, where they determine if you are a refugee
or not. Unfortunately, the member of the IRB was not satisfied with any of
my official documents. She decided to pass her own judgment, based on
nothing except for her own likings. I was denied asylum. Really, she has
no basis. I have all my original documents, official documents, by the
Jordanians, by the Palestinian Authority, by the Israeli authorities and
the United Nations (UNRWA). I am Palestinian. I am not Jordanian. She is
still insisting that I am Jordanian and that my papers are fake. It’s very
clear that she was bent upon denying me. From my Refugee Protection
Officer’s (RPO) closing statement, I felt that at least he believed the
facts I presented at my hearing. I am going to contact the Jordanian
embassy and we are going to prove beyond any doubt that I was telling the
truth, my documents are valid and I am not Jordanian. My documents should
have been enough. Out of all of the IRB judges, she has a reputation of
being very difficult.

Next, there is something called a judicial review, where you write a
letter in response to the denial. Then, it could go to federal court. My
five pages of responses to the judge’s decision and my lawyer’s argument
and facts about the decision, showed how unfair the hearing was. If I had
a little bit of hope, or faith in the system, it was that the federal
court would have taken my case, but they didn’t.

* Do you know other people that have been victimized by the refugee system
in Canada?

I know there are many Palestinians that are going through the same
difficulties. Canada used to grant asylum to most Palestinian refugees.
Palestinians are living under occupation, maybe the most brutal and savage
occupation in the world. And the whole world is witness to that. Hundreds
of organizations for human rights, even the United Nations and including a
lot of Israeli organizations, testify the same thing. It’s a fact. Grave
human rights violations are committed on a daily basis by the Israeli
army. And of course, that’s why people leave! Nobody can argue with that,
unless they are prejudiced. So suddenly, being a Palestinian from that
situation is not enough a reason to be recognized as a refugee for Canada.
You have to prove that they came after you, and you are personally at risk
of being killed.

* What changes should be made to the refugee process?

There is no doubt in my mind that it is fair and just that Palestinians
need to be recognized as refugees, because we are recognized by the Geneva
Conventions as refugees and because of what is happening there. But even
though it is bad there, it doesn’t mean that all of the Palestinians will
want to leave. In fact, I have heard so many times from Palestinians
there, “No, we have got to die here, we are not going to go anywhere.” I
don’t think I can deal with that kind of life. It has affected me. It has
ruined my life. I am always living in fear. I can’t get rid of this fear.

* What do you think people can do to specifically help your case?

I think if more Canadian citizens became aware of what is happening, about
the process a refugee is going through, they might support a more just
process. People were protesting that there should be an appeal process,
because it is a fact that some people will be unfairly denied. “No One Is
Illegal” is giving me a lot of support, by trying to show people that
regardless what the judge decided, that I am Palestinian. I admire that
and I appreciate their work.

* If Canada decides to deport you, where will they send you?

That’s the thing. They have to arrange things with the Jordanians. The
Jordanians are going to say, “This guy is not Jordanian, he’s
Palestinian.” One thing that I am worried about is if the Jordanians take
me and try to send me to the West Bank. I don’t want to go back there,
under the circumstances. If the Canadians want to cut it short, they could
send me back to the US. It’s a never-ending cycle. I’m exhausted mentally
and physically. Where can I go? I don’t care. It doesn’t have to be in
Canada, it doesn’t have to be in the US, I will take anywhere in the
world. If they allow me to stay, I will be happy. I don’t know. It’s
tough. Not knowing what might happen is the worst thing.


Macdonald Stainsby
In the contradiction lies the hope

More information about the Marxism mailing list