Vanessa Rodel and her young daughter Keana are finally safe, some six years after they opened the door to a scared young man who was seeking shelter in Hong Kong. That man was Edward Snowden, introduced to the penniless refugee family by their shared lawyer, who needed his soon-to-be-famous client to disappear for a few days while they worked on the US National Security Agency whistleblower’s legal case.
Vanessa had wound up in Hong Kong after fleeing a violent and powerful sexual abuser in the Philippines. But her act of kindness, and her location in Hong Kong, unfortunately became known – to the world, and to her abuser – at some point after Oliver Stone released his movie on Snowden. Hong Kong then rejected her asylum claim, effectively giving the green light for her to be deported back to a place that offered no protection against her abuser.
Fortunately, Canada accepted Vanessa and Keana, now 7, as sponsored refugees, ensuring she would not be returned to the Philippines.
But five more kindhearted people who also sheltered Snowden for a few days face the same danger that Vanessa and Keana just escaped.
Supun Kellapatha and his partner Nadeeka separately escaped death threats and politically motivated abuse in Sri Lanka, and met each other as they waited – in vain – for Hong Kong to grant them asylum. The couple now have two children, Dinath and Sethumdi, who are stateless. Ajith Debagama Kankanalamage escaped horrific and repeated torture by the Sri Lankan army, but his asylum request was also rejected by Hong Kong, which is ready to deport him to where his life is at risk. His family was threatened and harassed by police once his connection to Snowden, and location in Hong Kong, became known. Sri Lankan Criminal Investigation Department officers were spotted in Hong Kong searching for these five in late 2016, making the prospect of retaliation should they be repatriated all the more likely.
These five people, who live in daily fear, have sponsors ready and waiting in Canada. Their path to a secure life is clear. Vanessa and Keana have been saved by Ottawa’s decision to admit them. The authorities can save their friends from peril by allowing them entry to Canada.