Canadian residents stranded abroad after travel documents were stolen

Stuck abroad for two months, Ekaterina Usmanova admits she “was crying all her tears” [she] can scream. “

In August, the Canadian permanent resident returned to Russia for the first time in nearly three years to visit family. Like so many people who are unable to visit each other while on opposite sides of the earth, the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed them apart

On her return trip to Toronto, the 26-year-old girl had a vacation in Istanbul, Turkey. That’s where her journey took a major turn when her travel wallet and Canadian permanent resident (PR) card were stolen.

As the panic began to set in, she recalls thinking, “I’ve just lost my whole life; I’ve just lost everything I’ve worked for.”

She said that blind spots with security cameras at the airport meant that staff couldn’t see the culprit behind the brazen theft.

Alone in a country she had never been to before, Usmanova filed a police report and then went to the Canadian consulate in Istanbul to try and replace her PR card. She was not even allowed into the office and was denied access because she was only a permanent resident, not a full citizen.

Her next move was to submit the paperwork to the Canadian embassy in the Turkish capital Ankara. That was two months ago.

Usmanova has repeatedly contacted Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. Exasperated, she told CTV National News: “It’s really hard to get a hold of anyone who’s human, to get to any human correspondence.”

Nearly defeated, she admits, “I’ve squeezed all my emotions out during this really stressful journey.”

Ekaterina Usmanova. (Courtesy of Ekaterina Usmanova)

Eight years ago, Usmanova moved to Vancouver on her own as a teenager to attend University. Three years ago, she decided to move to Toronto to continue building her life and start her professional career as a marketing executive and a professional photographer.

She admits, “I don’t have a home anywhere other than Canada, because most of my adult life that’s where I’ve lived.”

Traveling with Canadian papers as a permanent resident, she thought her emergency situation as a young woman stranded abroad would expedite any process by Canadian officials. That was not her experience.

“I think it will take about two, four weeks at most, for me to get my things sorted and come back. I certainly didn’t know it would go this way. “

She added that the government’s lack of action “definitely adds a big tear of bitterness to my glass of tears at this point.”

Usmanova said she had to move 15 times in a 58-day period while in Turkey. She was forced to leave the country and return to Russia, where she is currently awaiting any word on when she can return home to Canada.

Last week, she said she received a text from her employer in Toronto.

“Unfortunately, my company had to terminate my position after two precarious months,” she said.

Usmanova is unsure how she will cover the rent of her Toronto apartment, where she financially supports her sister who is in college and lives with her.

Putting on a brave face, she said, “I don’t want to think negatively. I am a great warrior. I don’t want to think we might lose our apartment.”

Sitting in her Toronto apartment, her sister, Sofiia Usmanova, reads the sticky notes on the fridge that the two will write and leave for each other.

One of Sofiia’s favorite notes reads “Thank you for your unconditional love”.

The 20-year-old said she’s been calling Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada several times a day for weeks but always gets the same annoying automated message: “We’re in trouble. high volume of calls, please call back later”.

Sofiia Usmanova and Ekaterina Usmanova. (Courtsey by Ekaterina Usmanova)

When asked if she believes the Canadian government is handling her sister’s situation with the degree of urgency she believes is necessary, she candidly said: “No, you don’t feel yourself appreciated or the case is important to the Canadian government. “

Reflecting on her experience trying to contact a Canadian immigration official for help, younger Usmanova shared that “it’s not just about her but about the immigration system, the whole system doesn’t work. normal movement.”

Canada plans to welcome nearly 1.5 million new permanent residents over the next three years, in part to fill critical job shortages in many sectors. However, one immigration attorney believes Canada’s system is chaotic and the shortcomings need to be addressed immediately.

Attorney Matthew Jeffery told CTV National News: “The status quo is unacceptable, you’ve got a large backlog of work, huge delays, and you want to increase concurrent immigration.”

“The government must devote more resources to immigration to ensure staff are available to process applications in a timely manner.”

CTV National News has contacted Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada about Usmanova’s case several times this week. However, they were unable to deliver the update before our deadline.

The day after sitting down with CTV National News, Ekaterina Usmanova received an email from the Office of the Minister of Immigration, saying, “rest assured that every effort is being made to process applications that receive a most effective and efficient way. However, due to COVID-19, all existing and new applications will continue to be processed but may experience delays.”

“I don’t think (email) telemetry can be considered satisfactory,” Usmanova said.

She wants to return home to the life she has worked so hard to create in Canada.

She shared this message with anyone reading her story, including the Canadian government: “I’m trying to get back to my life in Canada, I want to go back to my sister to take care of her. , I want to return to the life that I have built over the past eight years, and my home in Toronto. Please, I want to go home.”

Usmanova was left in immigration limbo, unable to return home to Canada for 71 days.

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