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'News from Roman' is a place where I write about events or experiences that are important to me for one or another reason. It is a space where family and friends can get themselves updated on my latest undertakings, and where occasional readers can learn about issues which are important to me.

Archives (1st October 2017): A letter to 'Friends of Tahir'

Dear Friends of Tahir:

It is already some weeks without any news from us, and it is time for a short update on what happens in Tahir’s life.

The positive news is that Tahir has already started his lessons that are meant to help him in catching up with his high school education when he eventually makes it to Canada. He follows weekly online/Skype tutoring, and additionally he does a great deal of homework throughout the week too. After some initial difficulties, which he encountered while adjusting to his new responsibilities, he now enjoys studying and is very eager to learn! While he is excited, I am very, very grateful for this opportunity, as I am aware that the more he accomplishes now, the easier it will be for him later.

Except his studies, Tahir engages with some of his hobbies. From previous emails, you already know that he is a very keen fitness fan. He uses the gym on every possible occasion, which sometimes is twice a day! While clearly, this is a great thing, I need to admit that he puts me to shame and makes me feel very guilty. I do very little sports myself.

Recently, we discovered that Tahir has a natural talent for taking amazing photographs. He has never been trained on picture taking, and he does not own any professional equipment either. All what he has is just a simple automatic camera and a mobile phone… Despite this, some of his photos are inspiring. Very artistic: he manages to capture moments that make you look at things around you with a different perspective. Many who look at his pictures are continuously impressed, so and so that I decided to look for someone who could help him learn more about photography. We are very lucky here, as one of our neighbour is a photography enthusiast himself, and he decided to commit that he would work with Tahir – so that he could learn some practical tricks on photo taking, and learn how to edit the images. He (the neighbour) already advised to me what camera we should get for Tahir (good quality, but yet economical) to get him started… We will be shopping for it soon. This is really exciting!

When it comes to Tahir’s resettlement, there is no official answer from the Canadian immigration office on Tahir’s application yet, but we do have some potentially good clues. Just a few days ago, the immigration service got in touch with Tahir’s Canadian sponsors, and enquired some confirmations relating to his application. What is even a better piece of news is that the number of his application is now visible in an online tracking system! This signifies that his case is now officially under consideration, and that we should be expecting to hear some sort of an answer from them relatively soon. These expectations are based on experiences of some of the other applicants that we know… What happened in their cases is that once their applications ‘appeared’ online, they received their preliminary decisions on their resettlement to Canada soon after. Although we are far from being where we want to be, and things may not necessary work as we would like to, if we are lucky, Tahir should be able to get the decision on his resettlement application within next 4 to 8 weeks. Assuming that the Canadian authorities would send us a positive decision, Tahir’s case would then advance into a vetting/verification phase. This stage signifies that the overseas services of the Canadian government (diplomatic missions here in South East Asia) would check whether all what Tahir claims in his application is actually truthful. The vetting process (and also the medical check-up process) is likely to go on for around additional one year. This sounds like a lot, but is actually not too bad and this period is far less stressful in a sense that we already know that Tahir’s resettlement to Canada is approved and would take place given that we would be able to demonstrate that all inside the application is the truth. Bottom line is that you all need to keep your fingers crossed now! We are approaching a very important step in the process for relocation to Canada!

I am very, very nervous about the outcome of the application, potentially more so than Tahir himself. Primarily, I am very concerned that the answer would be positive, but also worried about the timeline… I would very much like to remain here in Thailand until Tahir leaves Bangkok to safety. But because the process takes time, I may not be able to succeed in this. I may indeed need to be leaving my present working assignment before his case is processed. I will not be able to stay here forever, as my job requires some mobility from me. It is a bit stressful to me, but I remain positive and optimistic about it. If all goes well, things should work just fine, and Tahir would be on his way to Toronto before I leave Thailand for another assignment somewhere in the world.

Life for most refugees in Bangkok continues to be really hard. Recently the Thai authorities imposed new tough regulations on employing people with work permits only. From January 2018, the police are instructed to impose very hefty fines (up to 10,000 USD) on employers that hire people without permits. We already hear that most people are unwilling to take the risk of ‘illegal’ employment of foreigners. This is going to hit the refugees especially hard. Many will not be able to keep their jobs (even if these jobs are usually poorly paid), which means that even more people will need to engage in very risky ways of surviving. People will have no choice but to consider working in sex trade, or drug trafficking, or would fall prey of slavery work. This is heart-breaking and very frustrating, especially that we personally know many of people who may be victimised (as they live on the edge already now). I feel a bit depressed about it, as I feel that I can’t do much to stop it and give a helping hand to all those who need it. It is very sad. Keeping this in mind, I appreciate your help that you have extended (and are extending) to Tahir, so that we can ensure that at least he does not need to be subjected to these potentially horrific experiences. It is perhaps only one person, but it is one person that you have managed to give hope to and to keep out of depravation. Thank you so much for this support and for whatever else you may be doing to help!

Sending you all my very best regards and greetings!