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One last chance: Hard-luck refugee mom desperate to stay in Canada

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Misfortune follows the North End single mom with six kids everywhere.

When she was nine, her family fled mayhem in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu. They took shelter in a refugee camp in Kenya that locals torched, scattering many families, including hers. At 15, she was alone and fled to South Africa, already flooded with unwelcome refugees. By the time she was 28, she was a single parent of six and driven out again by locals who beat her husband until he fled and burned down their small shop.

When Idil Timayare was reunited with her parents in Winnipeg in 2011, her troubles didn't end. She was run down by a cab this past winter, days before a crucial refugee hearing. As luck would have it, the Immigration and Refugee Board member hearing her case had a track record of rejection -- saying no to 180 refugee claimants out of 210 cases heard in 2011. With a busted foot and fuzzy on prescription painkillers, 31-year-old Timayare testified on behalf of herself and her six young kids and lost.

Now, she and her children, who've been attending school here, have no status in Canada and their future is uncertain. They scrape by with help from food banks and social assistance in a dark, stifling hot-box they rent for $1,000 a month in the North End.

"I have hope," said Timayare, who's receiving physiotherapy, coping with pain and looking forward to returning to English classes in the fall. "My kids like it here. They enjoy school."

'I have hope. My kids like it here. They enjoy school'

-- Idil Timayare, who is hoping to overturn a deportation order that would erase what had been a relief from a hellish life in Africa

Their rent is high and their house isn't great, but they have good neighbours, she said.

Her five sons under 12 have been going to school here for the last two years. The oldest, Zakariya, who's turning 12 in September, said he's not sure what he wants to be when he grows up. His younger siblings practically bounce off the walls of their cramped home and he feels the pressure of his station in the family.

"It's annoying," said the Canadian-sounding adolescent.

Four-year-old Samira is nervous about starting nursery school but excited about her shiny, pink shoes.

"I can't go back," said her mom. She fears her daughter would have to undergo female circumcision.

'I can't go back... Somalia is not safe'

"I don't want her circumcised. Somalia is not safe."

If they're sent back to South Africa, they have no means of support and, as outsiders, will once again face xenophobic attacks, she said.

Timayare's parents, who were granted refugee status and assisted by the Canadian government to come here more than a decade ago, are now Canadian citizens. They live a short drive from their daughter and grandkids and planted a big vegetable garden in their backyard.

Samira spends a lot of time at her grandparents' apartment, where her grandmother, Amina, dotes on her and gives her strawberry ice cream in a red plastic cup.

Grandfather Ahmed Timayare said they help out as much as they can.

On Feb. 4, he was waiting downtown in the car with his grandkids for his daughter, who'd gone to a program for newcomers. They waited three hours and she didn't show up. He didn't know a cab hit her and she'd been taken to hospital by ambulance. She was stabilized and a patient lent her a cellphone to call her dad.

Days later, she hobbled into court for her refugee hearing, on crutches with a cast on her leg and still in rough shape. She wanted to get it over with.

Her father stayed in the hall with her kids while Timayare went ahead with the proceedings. She said she can't remember what happened, but she knows she lost.

Human rights lawyer David Matas said she shouldn't have testified in such rough shape -- especially before a board member with one of the highest refugee rejection rates. Matas asked the Federal Court to review the refugee board decision, but it refused.

Now her only hope is to apply to Citizenship and Immigration Canada to stay on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, Matas said. The application fee for the family of seven is $1,400 -- what they have to live on every month, said Timayare.

If her luck doesn't change soon, the Canada Border Services Agency said she and her kids will be sent back to the place they fled.

"We're safe here," said Timayare.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 31, 2013 A8

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