Mexican journalist finds support from activists to fight deportation
A Lower Mainland radio broadcaster and writer will soon be sent back to Mexico despite receiving death threats and fearing for her family's safety.
Journalist Karla Berenice García Ramírez, 38, fled to Surrey, B.C. four years ago after blowing the whistle on corruption in a Mexican government ministry where she worked. Her writings about corruption and graft got her into hot water – bringing her harassment and ominous threats, she said – but despite her family's fears, she continued writing.
“I started receiving death threats in 2003,” she told the Vancouver Observer. “I have received many threats by phone since then.
“If I go back to Mexico, I can be jailed – I could be beaten. The worst would be – (because) the impunity in Mexico is higher now – if someone killed me, who knows what would happen. I'm really afraid – basically, I'm trying to keep my life, and my family's life, safe.”
Last year, García Ramírez' pre-removal risk assessment application was rejected – she had been turned down from a refugee status request in 2010.
A broadcaster on a Vancouver community radio station, as well as author of a book launched last October – The Talent of the Charlatans -- she often writes under the assumed name of Karla Lottini.
“We've been working over the past couple weeks to get some media and support,” said Alex Mah, of the migrant justice group No One Is Illegal. “In her case, she's really genuinely terrified of going back.
“In the case of Mexico, (Canada) rejects 90 per cent of refugee applications because our government has decided that Mexico is safe for everyone, despite the fact that journalists regularly get assassinated in the State of Mexico.”
Mah said that his group advocates for all migrants, regardless of their circumstances – but this case is, he acknowledged – particularly troubling because it is about a journalist and whistleblower who has been threatened for her work.
“Everybody deserves to seek refuge wherever they need to,” he said. “There is no such thing as someone undesirable.
“She's someone who really believes in truth and honesty and is someone who was getting death threats and her family was, because she was writing about a vast web of corruption she witnessed working in the ministry of culture... She wouldn't back down... The more they tried to silence her, the more she said 'No, I'm going to write this piece.'”
Mah said Canada's refugee system exists to protect people in danger, precisely for cases like this.
“It's the entire reason the asylum system exists – to protect people from the persecution of their government,” he said. “We demand she be able to stay through the humanitarian and compassionate appeal process.”
The Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) told the Vancouver Observer it could not comment on any particular case.
“We can't of course comment about a particular refugee claim, or confirm there is such a claim,” said Melissa Anderson, a spokesperson for the IRB, in an interview. “Each refugee claim is individual and decided on its own merit.
“To determine persecution, you have the claimant's story and the country conditions... After they've determined a link to one of the convention refugees (criteria) – well-founded fear of persecution – there are many issues ... the availability of state protection, is there another place in the country you can go?”
Anderson emailed VO a document which states that Canada accepts very few refugee claimants from Mexico – in 2011, only 17 per cent of Mexican claims were accepted - but that the number can be even lower at around 10 per cent.
Despite nearly 50,000 people killed in several years of major drug-related violence in the country, Canada is a major trading partner of Mexico and rarely accepts refugee claims unless they can prove specific threats related to organized crime.
García Ramírez volunteers with a number of organizations in the Lower Mainland, including the Children's Festival, she told VO. She also has a radio program on Latin American issues.
No One Is Illegal has been campaigning on her case, collecting letters of support from community organizations. They will hold a press conference tomorrow at 10 a.m. at the downtown YWCA (733 Beatty Street).
Another impending deportation from Vancouver to Mexico hit headlines last month. Ericka Gonzalez Carillo - whose husband was already deported to his native Iran only three days after the birth of their child - is being sent back to Mexico next month, according to the Toronto Star.