Reunite at-Risk Iranian Girl With Her Calgary Mother: Grant Amitis a Permit NOW!

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Reunite at-Risk Iranian Girl With Her Calgary Mother: Grant Amitis a Permit NOW!

Matthew Behrens started this petition to Marco Mendicino, Immigration Minister, Catrina Tapley, Jenny Kwan, and it now has 7,311 signatures

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Amitis Shojaei is a 13-year-old girl who has been separated from her Calgary-based mother, Fatemeh, for 27 months, and it could be another 39 months before her permanent residence (PR) application to come to Canada is processed. This is unacceptable. We are calling for the immediate issuance of an Early Admission Temporary Residence Permit (TRP) to allow Amitis to come to Calgary now while her PR application is completed. Leaving her in Iran – where conditions are increasingly desperate and she is also at extreme risk given one of the world’s highest mortality rates of Covid-19 – is reckless and negligent.

The 27-month break in an incredibly strong mother-daughter bond has produced devastating results. Fatemeh, who for many understandable reasons is not sharing publicly why she had to come to Canada, suffers from severe depression due to the separation, as does Amitis, who suffers from lack of sleep, disinterest in play, and poor academic results. A November, 2019 psychiatric assessment that has been shared with Canadian officials indicates this young girl suffers greatly from anxiety and depression because of the separation from her mother, and that while treatment is recommended, “it is highly recommended to change the conditions and make it possible for her to enjoy physical and emotional presence of her mother.”

In addition to the pain of being separated from her mother and experiencing daily what it means to be a second class citizen as a girl, the conditions in Amitis’ community (where she survives with her aunt) are severe. They include a lack of electricity (and no air conditioning when daytime temperatures reach 50 degrees Celsius), food and medicine shortages, and strict water rationing. Amitis is also at greater risk of contracting covid-19 given the regime’s decision not to impose strict public health measures, arguing that the economy must remain open to counteract the devastating impact of ongoing economic sanctions against the country.

Life has become so unbearable that the Iranian suicide rate is now among the highest in the world.

In March, 2021, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran noted that "Women and girls continue to be treated as second class citizens in Iran,” adding that “one of the most concerning issues in Iran today when it comes to the rights of women and girls is the issue of child marriage.” As the UN has pointed out, there is great concern that "the legal age for a girl to marry in the Islamic Republic of Iran is 13 years, with even younger girls allowed to marry with paternal and judicial consent. This is inconsistent with the State’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, where the Committee on the Rights of the Child has strongly recommended an increase in the minimum age of marriage to 18, in law and in practice, for girls and boys.

As noted above, Amitis has just turned 13 and is now, and during the difficult years of teenhood she is at higher risk than ever before. She needs a permit to be able to reunite with her mother in Calgary and heal from the trauma and fear of even more separation.

These conditions are well documented in the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board’s National Documentation Package on Iran. In other words, immigration officials know the risks faced by Amitis each day she is left behind. Recognizing these risks, they should immediately issue the required early admission TRP to allow Amitis to leave behind this situation of significant risk and reunite her with her mother. Any further delay, given these facts, is simply inexcusable.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Canada is a signatory, is the leading international human rights instrument on children’s rights. Canada’s own immigration legislation specifically provides that it "complies with international human rights instruments to which Canada is signatory,” thus codifying the best interests of children into its own legislative scheme. Article 10 of the Convention states: “applications by a child or his or her parents to enter or leave a State Party for the purpose of family reunification shall be dealt with by States Parties in a positive, humane and expeditious manner.”

With over two years lost and the prospect of another 3.5 more years of separation, the rights violation here is clear. It is in the best interests of Amitis to immediately reunite her with her mother. There is simply no reasonable excuse for why this cannot happen immediately.

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