A Sri Lankan couple, who sheltered former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in Hong Kong eight years ago, arrived in Canada with their two children on Tuesday, where authorities provided them security.
Supun Thilina Kelapatha and Nadeka Dilrukshi Nonis were living in limbo in Hong Kong after authorities rejected their asylum claims in 2017.
The couple took Snowden with them at the behest of a Canadian human rights lawyer after he leaked documents detailing America’s top secret surveillance programs. Advocates said that local media identified Kelapath, Nonis and several others who risked their lives.
But on Tuesday, two refugees and their children — Sethumadi, 9, and Dinath, 5 — landed in Toronto, according to For the Refugees, a nonprofit group that privately sponsored their application for refugee status.
The family will travel to Montreal, where the group has arranged accommodations. There, they will be reunited with Vanessa Rodale, another “Snowden refugee”, and their daughter, Keena. Both arrived in Canada as refugees in 2019. Kelapath is Keena’s father.
“After more than a decade, they can now begin building new lives in Canada, reunited with the rest of their family and free from the constant fear and anxiety that are high-profile in Hong Kong. mark their existence as asylum seekers,” President for Refugees Marc-André Seguin said in a statement.
Ethan Cox, a spokesman for the organization, said the separation of the two families had been “a lot of stress”.
Now, “they are really thrilled to be able to say goodbye to Hong Kong,” Cox said. He added: “The situation in Hong Kong is not good … it is a very unsafe place, especially for high-profile asylum seekers.”
When Snowden first arrived in Hong Kong, he had stayed in a luxurious hotel – but soon went underground after exposing himself as the whistleblower who leaked details about the National Security Agency’s Prism surveillance program.
Tibbo, who is helping Snowden, asked a group of refugees living in cramped Hong Kong homes if they would give shelter to an American contractor. The group, which included Kelapath, Nonis and Rodale, agreed.
Snowden, who is now facing multiple criminal charges in the United States, stayed with them for two weeks before fleeing to Russia, where he now lives.
Another “Snowden refugee” from Sri Lanka, Ajit Pushpakumar, lives in Hong Kong, Cox said, and is urging the Canadian government for refugees to expedite his application.
“We hope the Canadian government will expedite their application process and then allow them to join others in Canada without delay,” he said.
Credit: www.independent.co.uk / Edward Snowden