His travel documents were stolen in Turkey. Since then he has not been able to return to Canada: KION546 | Tech US News


By Adrian Ghobrial

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TORONTO (CTV Network) – Stranded in a foreign country for two months, Ekaterina Usmanova admits she “cried all the tears [she] I could scream.”

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

On her return trip to Toronto, the 26-year-old had a stopover in Istanbul, Turkey. That’s where his trip took a major detour when his travel wallet and Canadian Permanent Resident (PR) card were stolen.

When panic started to set in, she remembers thinking, “I’ve just lost my whole life; I just lost everything I worked for.”

She says blind spots with security cameras at the airport meant officers couldn’t see the culprit behind the brazen robbery.

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

His next step was to file the paperwork with the Canadian embassy in the Turkish capital of Ankara. That was two months ago.

Usmanova has contacted Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada on several occasions. Exasperated, she tells CTV National News, “It was very difficult to meet someone human, to get human correspondence.”

Almost defeated, she admits, “I’ve exhausted all my emotions throughout this really stressful journey.” Eight years ago, Usmanova moved to Vancouver by herself 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 director and professional photographer.

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

Traveling on Canadian papers as a permanent resident, she thought her emergency situation as a young woman stuck in a foreign country would speed up the processes of Canadian officials. That was not his experience.

“I thought it would take about two, four weeks at the most to get my things in order and come back. I definitely had no idea it would have been like that.”

He adds that the government’s lack of action is “definitely adding a huge, bitter drop to my glass of tears right now.”

Usmanova said she had to move 15 times over a 58-day period while in Turkey. She was forced to leave the country and return to Russia, where she is now waiting to hear when she can return to Canada.

Last week, he said he received a message from his employer in Toronto.

“Unfortunately, my company had to terminate my position after two months of uncertainty,” she says.

Usmanova is not sure how she will cover the rent on her Toronto condo, where she financially supports her younger sister, who is in college and lives with her.

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

Sitting in their shared condo in Toronto, her younger sister, Sofiia Usmanova, reads the sticky notes on the fridge that the two would write and leave for each other.

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

The 20-year-old says she’s called Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada several times a day for weeks, but always gets the same frustrating automated message: “We’re experiencing a high volume of calls, please call back later.” When asked if she believes the Canadian government is handling her sister’s situation with the urgency she believes is necessary, she flatly replied, “No, you don’t feel appreciated or that this case is important to the Canadian government.”

Reflecting on her experience trying to get help from a Canadian immigration official, the younger Usmanova shares that “it’s not just about her, it’s about the immigration system, the whole system isn’t working properly.”

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

“The status quo is not acceptable, you already have big backlogs, you have big backlogs and yet you want to increase immigration at the same time,” attorney Matthew Jeffery told CTV National News.

“The government needs to devote more resources to the immigration department to ensure staff are there to process applications in a timely manner.”

CTV National News reached out to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada several times this week about Usmanova’s case. However, they were unable to provide an update before our deadline.

A day after sitting down with CTV National News, Ekaterina Usmanova received an email from the Immigration Minister’s office, saying: “Make sure everything is done to deal with the applications received as efficiently and effectively as possible. However, due to COVID-19, all existing and new applications will continue to be processed, but may experience delays.”

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

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

She shares this message with anyone who reads 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 go back to my sister. The life I’ve been building for the last eight years, and my house in Toronto. Please, I want to go home.”

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

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Adrian Ghobrial


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