UPDATE: Nigerian students deported from Regina
After 16 months of hiding in Regina churches two Nigerian students arrested for violating their student visas were deported Friday and are heading back home.
Ihoma Amadi and Victoria Ordu were studying as at the University of Regina when they took jobs at a local Wal Mart in the summer of 2011. Their work there was technically illegal because they were on student Visas. Both have since insisted they didn't know it was wrong because they had Social Insurance Numbers and had taken jobs on-campus previously.
The only statement given so far from the federal government was issued via email Friday from the office of Steven Blaney, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
"These individuals, who benefited from multiple avenues of appeal, are being removed from Canada. Our government will not compromise on the integrity of our immigration system."
The provincial government also issued a statement.
"Our government raised the issue of Ordu and Amandi with the federal government numerous times asking for flexibility to allow the students to remain in Saskatchewan," it reads. "We are told the two students left voluntarily and plan to reapply to come back to Saskatchewan to finish their education. We will continue to do whatever we can to ensure a favourable outcome."
While they were in hiding the girls gave several interviews, always maintaining they were sorry and just wanted to finish their degrees so they would have something to show for their education. Ordu claimed she even quit her job two weeks in when she discovered her mistake, but she was still arrested after quitting. Amadi said she didn’t know it was illegal until border officials took her away in handcuffs from work.
The students went through a lengthy appeal process in the next few months but they lost and were told they had to go back to Nigeria. At that point they went into hiding in the basement of a church in June of 2012.
In the year that followed Amadi and Ordu gained the support of local politicians, student groups and the University administration. They all wrote multiple letters to the minister in charge of public safety and the minister in charge of immigration supporting the girls and pleading for them to be given a second chance to stay and finish their degrees.
University of Regina President Vianne Timmons stood behind the students from the beginning. She said Amadi and Ordu told her a month ago they were considering giving up and going home.
“I learned within the last two weeks that they had made that decision to go,” she said. “Their hope is that they can get back into the country and finish their degrees as quickly as possible.”
Timmons stated Friday she is still disappointed that they were never offered leniency from the government, especially because they fought so hard for their education.
“They received national scholarships. So they worked so hard to get here and for me to have that taken away that’s just so sad.”
For now all she can do is continue advocating on their behalf.
“I’m hopeful that they’ll come back and finish their degrees, so that’s my job now is to look forward and to advocate for them,” she explained.
Timmons also pointed out that the law they violated may be changing soon. Immigration minister Jason Kenney proposed changes to policies governing international students in Dec. 2012. One of those changes would allow international students to work off-campus jobs if they qualified.