Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 10, 2007
Refugee workers fight unfair prosecution
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
Refugee advocates have launched a campaign to ensure that humanitarian workers do not get prosecuted under laws aimed at human traffickers.
"I am proud to aid and abet refugees," said the advocates from Canadian charities and nongovernmental organizations.
The Canadian Council for Refugees, a nonprofit umbrella organization for refugee rights, and Amnesty International Canada launched the campaign Nov. 29.
Francisco Rico-Martinez, a Catholic participant from the FCJ Refugee Centre in Toronto and former president of the Canadian Council for Refugees, told the gathering that 80 per cent of the work he does could be considered in violation of the law.
The FCJ Refugee Centre was started by sisters from the Faithful Companions of Jesus.
Rico-Martinez said he gets phone calls from people who want to flee to Canada and he advises them to use Mapquest or Google on the Web to check for places where the border is not well guarded.
When they arrive in Canada, he said, they come to his office or his home, and he helps them to apply for refugee status.
"I am going to violate every single law on earth to stop torture or to protect the life of someone," Rico-Martinez said. "We do this because of our belief of welcoming the stranger."
But refugee advocates want the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act changed so that it clearly targets those who engage in trafficking or smuggling humans for material gain.