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Deportation row deepens in Canada

The president of a gurdwara in Canada, where a failed refugee claimant from India is being sheltered, says the shrine's management has not violated any law.

india Updated: Jan 25, 2008 14:20 IST

The president of a gurdwara in Canada where a failed refugee claimant from India is being sheltered says the shrine's management has not violated any law, though the country's Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day has said there is no law allowing sanctuary at religious places.

Laibar Singh, a 48-year-old widower from Punjab, had entered Canada on a fake passport in 2003.

After exhausting all legal avenues to stay on, he was ordered to be deported last July.

As he has been paralysed since 2006, his supporters say he should be allowed to stay on humanitarian grounds. Since December, they have foiled two attempts to take him out of the gurdwara and deport him.

Responding to the minister's remarks, Surrey Guru Nanak Sikh Temple president Balwant Gill told IANS: "The government has been saying many things. Our stand is that this man has been given sanctuary on humanitarian grounds. There is nothing illegal about it."

He admitted that since the deportation order stood, the police could come and pick up Singh any time.

"But we cannot say how people will react again. As long as this poor man is with us, we will take care of him," Gill added.

Reacting to government suggestions that arrangements have been made for best medical care for Singh in India, Gill said he didn't know anything about it.

"Ask the government if they have arranged anything for him in India. As per our knowledge, nothing has been arranged. It is mere talk," he said.

Asked why they don't send Singh back and pay for his medical care in India, Gill said: "Why do you want him to be removed? There are so many people out here enjoying disability benefits. What is wrong if this man is offered the same? His is a genuine case."

He feared that the police could pick up Singh when he is taken out for medical check-up.

"Yes, they will try. They are looking for this kind of opportunity."

Gill said they were willing to wait as long as the government wanted.

"We are ready to fight for his stay here on humanitarian grounds. They (the Canadian government) tell the world from rooftops that they are the champions of human rights. Why not respect the human rights of this man?" he asked.

Meanwhile, the government has pacified Canadian border agents - who were angry for being pulled back twice from picking up Singh - by telling them that the deportation order will be carried out at all costs.

The border agents wanted the authorities to clarify their stand on the case as their failure to remove Singh made them look 'impotent'.

With Singh's supporters not willing to give in, the issue may drag on.