Dear Minister Hussen:
We refer to our communication to you of May 8, 2017, where we asked the Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to expedite consideration of the seven asylum-seekers in Hong Kong who sheltered Edward Snowden in their homes (see our attached previous letter). This urgent appeal received no substantive response, and thirteen months later, the situation of these people has grown more precarious and their anxiety and suffering greater. Each has had their well-documented and well-founded claim to asylum rejected by Hong Kong, and each has appealed. They now face the prospect of repatriation to abusers and torturers laying in wait at home, aware of their situation due to the publicity that enveloped Snowden’s case and the unanticipated disclosure of their role in offering him a few days of shelter.
We wish to direct your attention urgently to the plight of one, Ajith Debagama Kankanamalage, a 45 year-old Sri Lankan man who experienced horrific treatment at the hands of the military police, including beatings, torture and rape. Although the Sri Lankan military has been both notorious and unaccountable for such abuse, despite the fact that Sri Lankan Criminal Investigative Department police officers were seen searching for Ajith both regularly at his home village and 2016, in Hong Kong, and contrary to ample and uncontroverted documentation of his torture, through scars and evidence from psychiatric experts, Hong Kong has rejected his claim.
His appeals hearing is scheduled for June 25 to June 27, but Ajith has had difficulty handling such events even with the support of his lawyers, as they trigger acute episodes of panic and severe PTSD symptoms; it is doubted he will be capable of participating meaningfully. He is plagued by depression and many symptoms of PTSD, including nightmares, sleeplessness, palpitations, hypervigilance, emotional arousal, paralysis and breathlessness. His attending psychiatrist and lawyers see his condition rapidly deteriorating under the fear he will be handed back to those who are hunting for him in Sri Lanka, and they are concerned for his safety and life.
Each of these seven—four adults and three children—face a clear risk of torture and persecution if returned to their home countries, and each have sponsors ready and waiting for them in Quebec. Each of them has waited in limbo for years in Hong Kong, their lives on hold, depression and anxiety mounting, while Canada fails to act on their application.
But Ajith’s very survival right now may depend on removal to a place of security while his claims are assessed. We urge Canada to move swiftly, and give this man, who did no more than help another asylum-seeker, a reason to hope and to heal in safety.
We look forward to your response, and are ready to meet with you to discuss our special concerns about this case.
Canada Director, Human Rights Watch
Consul General of Canada in Hong Kong
5th Floor, Three Exchange Square
8 Connaught Place, Central,
Hong Kong S.A.R.
Immigration Program Manager
Consulate General of Canada
8/F, Berkshire House, 25 Westlands Road, Quarry Bay
Hong Kong S.A.R.