Help Stop My Mom's Deportation to Persecution!

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(Mama Celina Urbanowicz, above, has made thousands of free face coverings for frontline workers and seniors' home residents during the pandemic. She helps save other people's lives. Let's help save hers!)

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada Marco Mendicino, Deputy PM Chrystia Freeland, and Public Safety Minister Bill Blair,

Why is the Canadian government trying to deport our mother, Celina Urbanowicz, to a country (Poland) where, as a Roma woman, Amnesty International confirms she would face persecution, discrimination, violence, and the threat of death?

Why is the Canadian government trying to deport her when they have already recognized that Celina’s daughters – myself and my sister Camila – face the same risks as Roma women and, as a result, have been accepted in principle for permanent residency?

My family and I fled a war zone in Yugoslavia because we had no other choice, and we came to Canada as refugees in 1997. I was just 3 years old and my sister Camila was only 2 years old.

Because of paperwork problems, legal errors, and other systemic barriers faced by refugees – in other words, things we had nothing to do with – we have lived in Canada for 23 years with NO STATUS.

If Mama Celina is deported, she faces triple persecution. In Poland, the government and its police forces, like most in Europe, look the other way when Roma people are discriminated against, harassed, beaten up, and murdered. Oftentimes, they are directly complicit in such violence. In addition, because my mother divorced an abusive man to marry my father, a Muslim, she is now considered persona non grata by the Roma community in Europe. And because I am in an open and loving long-term relationship with a woman, she faces a third level of discrimination based on my sexual orientation and her loving support of me.

Amnesty International writes that a woman of my mother’s profile “would face multiple risks on account of their intersectional vulnerabilities stemming from their identity as a Roma woman, wife of a Muslim man, and as the mother of a lesbian woman.” An expert on Roma history and culture writes  "she will face severe discrimination, extreme persecution and be under imminent fear for her life because she has been condemned as gonime po trajo (‘shunned or life’).”

Mama Celina has devoted her entire life raising us, taking care of us, being there for us when we needed her most. It is our turn to hold her, take care of her, to fight for her.

Even as she faces the dark cloud of deportation over her head, she spends every night working late to make free face masks for front-line workers and seniors' home residents affected by the pandemic. She isn’t doing this for any special favours. This is just who she is. You can see her being interviewed here: https://globalnews.ca/news/7058588/coronavirus-immigration-refugees/  and https://ottawa.ctvnews.ca/making-cloth-masks-is-a-family-affair-during-the-covid-19-pandemic-1.4938230

My family is being torn apart one by one, separating us from one another.

Please support our call for Celina Urbanowicz to be immediately landed as a permanent resident so she can finally open the path to Canadian citizenship. She has never caused any harm to anyone, and only seeks to get on with her life with the same rights and responsibilities as anyone else who lives here.

On World Refugee Day, June 20, 2019, Prime Minister Trudeau declared: “People flee home when they have no other choice. Those of us who are more fortunate share a responsibility to help them find refuge and build a new life. That’s why we’ll continue to come to the aid of the most vulnerable, to show openness, and to choose compassion – the foundation for a stronger Canada, and a better world.” (link: https://pm.gc.ca/en/news/statements/2019/06/20/statement-prime-minister-world-refugee-day

We wholeheartedly agree with this beautiful statement, which is why we trust that our mother will finally win her dream of permanent residence in Canada.

Thank you 

Roksana Hajrizi