CBSA deporting undocumented worker to COVID-ravaged India despite pleas from family, advocates

MONTREAL (CityNews) — Advocates are pleading with Canadian officials to halt the planned deportation of a 27-year-old back to India due to the health crisis overwhelming the country.

Jatinder Singh is scheduled to be deported to India on June 15. But supporters and family members say the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is putting his life at risk because India is grappling with a devastating resurgence of the virus.

“Now, these days in India the condition is worse,” said Kamaldeep Kaur Hundel, Singh’s cousin. “The COVID is at peak. People are dying there, it’s no off-season. And still he is being sent to India on June 15.”

Hundel also fears her cousin will be targeted the moment he lands in India for political reasons.

“The father belongs to a political party, and opposition parties are not in favour of them,” said Hundel. “A few years ago, they already attacked his father and a few months ago they attacked his brother.”

Singh, who worked as a farmer in India, claims he left his native country fearing for his life in 2013 and first moved to the United States before crossing the border to Canada in May 2017, where he has family.

“First of all, he became a refugee over here,” said Hundel. “And in 2019 his appeal and refugee claim got refused. Since 2019 he’s been out of status. He had to apply for humanitarian cause but the COVID came.”

WATCH: Canadian charity helping vulnerable in India get their vaccines (May 30, 2021)

Singh had been working as a truck driver in Canada, transporting goods between Montreal and various cities. That’s what he was doing the night of March 9 when he was arrested. Singh says someone bumped into his parked truck while he was taking a nap and police were called to report the incident.

Once officers looked up his name in the system, they saw he was in the country without legal status since 2019, and he was detained. No other charges were brought against him.

“Just a very banal incident that ended up having incredibly devastating consequences for him,” said Amy Darwish at Solidarity Across Borders.

Added Laura Aguiar, also with Solidarity Across Borders: “He had his driver’s licence, he was paying taxes, he was following the law.”

WATCH: Montrealers worry about family in India amid COVID-19 (May 5, 2021)

After the arrest, Singh was transferred to Laval’s Immigration Holding Centre, where he was detained for close to two months.

Since his release, Singh has been placed on the CBSA’s electronic monitoring program pilot project. His location is constantly monitored by a device attached to his ankle and he is forbidden to leave his residency between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. every day until his deportation.

In an emailed response to CityNews, the CSBA says it’s bound by privacy laws and cannot speak to specific cases, but confirms that as of November 2020, it resumed enforcing removals of all inadmissible people.

The CSBA added that “as of April 23, 2021, and until further notice, the Agency is not enforcing escorted removals to and through India.”

CityNews reached back to the CBSA for clarification on whether any deportations to India would be taking place, escorted or not, and under which conditions, but have yet to receive a response.

“I read that as, ‘it’s not safe for one of our Canadian CBSA people to escort you to India, but just get on a plane and you can go off to India,’” said Aguiar.

Hundel says what’s happening to her cousin simply is not fair.

“Some people refused to work during COVID, and at that time he was transporting goods. He never thought about his health and safety.”

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