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Families who sheltered fugitive Snowden looking for fast-track asylum to Canada

Families who sheltered fugitive Snowden looking for fast-track asylum to Canada”

He says the four adults and three children from the Philippines and Sri Lanka fear for their safety if they are deported home.

Hong Kong authorities have rejected asylum requests from a group of refugees who sheltered Edward Snowden four years ago, in what their lawyer said is retaliation for helping the former NSA contractor. The four - Vanessa Rodel from the Philippines, former Sri Lankan soldier Ajith Pushpakumara, and Supun Kellapatha and Nadeeka Nonis, a married couple from Sri Lanka - now face possible detention or deportation.

The leaked classified information revealed details of widespread surveillance activities by the USA government. However, journalists independently discovered their identities shortly before the release of an Oliver Stone movie about Snowden that shows him being hidden among asylum-seekers in Hong Kong.

Tibbo said his clients will appeal the ruling.

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The asylum seekers each sheltered Snowden in their tiny Hong Kong apartments after they were introduced to the fugitive by his lawyer Robert Tibbo, who was handling their asylum cases. "In Hong Kong, once your case is rejected, you're not allowed to stay". However, past year the media discovered Snowden was aided by the impoverished group of refugees and advised by their current legal councilor, Robert Tibbo.

The family of Sri Lankan asylum seeker Ajith Pushpakumara, a former soldier from Sri Lanka who has been living in Hong Kong since 2003, housed the former USA intelligence contractor for about two weeks in 2013, shortly after he leaked classified documents that showed the extension of mass online surveillance by the American and other governments.

"The first thing on my mind is I don't want to be detained and I don't want me and my daughter to separate", she told AFP.

After government screening, claimants found to be at risk of persecution are referred to the UN's refugee agency, which can try to resettle them to a safe third country. At that point, the asylum-seekers went public in an effort to have some control over how they were portrayed in the media.

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Tibbo told the South China Morning Post that the Hong Kong immigration department's decision was "unreasonable", and that the group plans to appeal the decision.

Hong Kong's rejection of the group "puts them in an even more vulnerable position, and triggers a need for urgent protection", says Marc-André Séguin, one of the Canadian attorneys representing the group in the country.

The migrants "now find themselves at dire risk if sent back to their countries", said Dinah PoKempner, general counsel at Human Rights Watch.

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