In Buffalo, N.Y., a client is currently living in a shelter, desperately awaiting news about how she might be reunited with her three young children, all under the age of 10.
The woman fled the small East-African country of Burundi with her kids and landed in the United States with a visitor’s visa, hopeful they could all eventually claim asylum in Canada, where her sister-in-law is a permanent resident, living in Winnipeg.
But when they did attempt to cross the border by bus it became clear another difficult journey was ahead.
The mother — who Clarke wouldn’t identify to protect her from any possible reprisals back home — was denied entry under the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement, which stipulates that an asylum seeker must make their claim in the first safe country in which they land.
But her children were allowed into Canada under the care of their aunt, because of an exception that permits entry for those who have a blood-relative in the country.
It’s been about two months since they were separated. The mother speaks with her children by phone daily in a mix of Kurundi and French and desperately hopes they will soon be reunited.