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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Spurned by Japan, Kurds find refuge in Canada

Staff writer

A Kurdish man and his family who staged a sit-in in front of United Nations University in 2004 while they were seeking refugee status announced Monday they have been accepted in Canada.

Erdal Dogan, a 33-year-old Kurd from Turkey, said he was both delighted and depressed by the decision.

"Honestly speaking, I wish I could stay and live in Japan," Dogan said in Japanese at a news conference. "In Canada, my whole family will have to start from zero again, learning the language and culture" like they did in Japan.

Dogan left Turkey for Japan in 1999, fleeing ethnic and religious persecution in his homeland. He applied twice to be accepted as a refugee but was rejected both times.

Realizing he had little hope of success in Japan, Dogan said, he applied for refugee status in Canada in 2005.

"In Japan, I am an illegal overstayer," he said. "I couldn't have a job, I couldn't do anything. I was able to survive only because of the supporters' help."

Dogan's lawyer, Takeshi Ohashi, criticized the government for giving the Dogans the cold shoulder.

"While I am relieved that the Dogans are no longer in fear of being deported (back to Turkey) and have been recognized as refugees in Canada, this result is an embarrassment of our country," Ohashi said.

Dogan, his wife, Meryem, and his two children Merve, 8, and Mehmet, 5, and younger brother Deniz staged a sit-in in front of U.N. University in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, in July 2004 to protest Japan's rigid refugee recognition system.

Dogan's younger brother Deniz's bid was not accepted by Canada because he married a Japanese woman in 2006. He is still seeking a special residency permit.

Another Kurdish family, the Kazankirans, also participated in the 72-day sit-in. Ahmet and Ramazan Kazankiran — the father and son of the family of seven — were deported back to Turkey in January 2005, triggering both domestic and international criticism.

After spending two years separated, however, the whole family of seven was finally united in New Zealand this spring where they were recognized as refugees, Ohashi said.

For related stories:
Exhausted Kurds desperate to leave
Tokyo under fire for deporting refugees

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