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When you can’t go home

by Archives October 16, 2002

As part of the ongoing “Stop the Deportations” campaign, more than 400 demonstrators walked through downtown Montreal last Saturday to show their support for non-status Algerians in Canada.

The march, organized mainly by women, started on St. Antoine St. at the federal Immigration Building. Led by women and children, participants made their way west before meeting others at Concordia. Their final destination was the Guy Favreau Complex on Rene Levesque Blvd.

“1,000 Algerians are facing deportation. This [march] is a way of showing the public that there are a lot of citizens that are outraged by that decision and are here to stand in solidarity with them,” said Jaggi Singh, a noted Canadian activist.

Non-status Algerians are asylum seekers who have been denied immigrant or refugee status. They were allowed to stay in Canada due to the 1997 moratorium on the deportation of Algerians, triggered by the escalation of a bloody civil war in their homeland.

The moratorium was lifted last April when Denis Coderre, Canada’s minister of immigration, declared Algeria safe for deportations. However, a February report by Amnesty International stated that “human rights violations in Algeria have become institutionalized. Some 200 people continue to die every month as a result of the continuing decade-long armed conflict.”

Many argue that the lifting of the moratorium is profit-based, due to millions of dollars in trade deals between Algeria and Canada.

“We are sacrificed for money,” said Zoleka Mamadi, one of the organizers of the march.

Malika B., who didn’t want her last name published, described her take on the situation in Algeria: “There’s still deaths, there’s still injustice, there’s still the terrorists that are killing us.” With a passionate voice and teary eyes, she added: “Do they [the government] want to see us in a coffin for them to be convinced that we are in danger?”

One leader in the crowd was 11-year-old Kahina Behlouli, who shouted slogans as the crowd repeated after her. They chanted “stop perceiving us as numbers; refugees are not lottery games,” as they marched defiantly with numbers hanging around their necks.

“We are treated as file numbers, not as human beings,” said Mossaouda Kellou, an organizer of the event. Singh agreed: “Behind every number there’s a compelling story about why they should stay [in Canada].”

The campaign to stop the deportations was initiated by The Action Committee for Non-Status Algerians and is now endorsed by dozens of organizations, including the F

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