2021-09-29 13:22:00 Canada Grants Asylum to Refugees Who Sheltered Snowden in Hong Kong

Canada Grants Asylum to Refugees Who Sheltered Snowden in Hong Kong

HONG KONG (AP) — An aid group supporting the family said Tuesday that a Sri Lankan family that sheltered former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden after he fled to Hong Kong in 2013 has been granted asylum in Canada.

Supun Thilina Kellapatha and Nadeeka Dilrukshi Nonis arrived in Toronto with their children, Sethumdi and Dinath, on Tuesday. They intended to continue their journey to Montreal and establish themselves as permanent residents there.

Mr. Snowden tweeted, “This is the best news I’ve heard in a long, long time.”

The relocation brings an end to a long period of uncertainty for the family, who sought asylum in Hong Kong but were denied in 2017. Mr. Kellapatha claimed to have been tortured in Sri Lanka.

“After more than a decade in limbo, they can now begin to build new lives in Canada, reunited with the rest of their family and free of the constant fear and worry that marked their existence as high-profile asylum seekers in Hong Kong,” said Marc-André Séguin, president of the aid group For the Refugees.

Mr. Kellapatha and Ms. Nonis hosted Mr. Snowden in their 250-square-foot apartment in Hong Kong for about three days in 2013, just after the contractor became the focus of intense global attention for his revelations about secret US surveillance programs.

When he arrived, “he said, ‘You are a good man,’” Mr. Kellapatha recalled in 2016. “However, I believe he is superior to me because he respected me.”

Mr. Kellapatha stated that he was not concerned about hosting Mr. Snowden and that the former contractor was the most vulnerable. Mr. Snowden later left the family $200 under a pillow, which they used to buy food and clothing for their daughter, Sethumdi.

A lawyer, Robert Tibbo, arranged the stay, believing that cramped refugee apartments in poor Hong Kong neighborhoods were the last place anyone would look for one of the world’s most wanted men. This assumption proved to be correct. Mr. Snowden vanished from public view after a brief stay at the opulent Mira Hotel as he moved from one refugee apartment to the next.

After about two weeks, he went into exile in Moscow, where he is still living today. In the United States, he faces criminal charges for leaking classified information.

Vanessa Mae Bondalian Rodel, a Filipino refugee who also housed Mr. Snowden, was granted asylum in Canada in 2019 along with her daughter, Keana Nihinsa. Ajith Pushpakumara, another refugee who sheltered Mr. Snowden, has yet to be approved by Canada. Mr. Pushpakumara, from Sri Lanka, stated that he deserted the country’s military and faces execution if he is returned.

“We have no doubt that Ajith’s application, like these others, will be accepted in the end, but every day he remains in Hong Kong puts him at risk,” Mr. Séguin said in a statement. “Now is the time for Canada to cut through the red tape and process his application.”

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Canada Grants Asylum to Refugees Who Sheltered Snowden in Hong Kong