After 21 years in the immigration limbo, Samuel Ndesanjo Nyaga is finally free to spend the rest of his years in Canada.
The 74-year-old failed refugee and pillar of the Kenyan community in Toronto was granted residence after the star and other media outlets reported last week that he was deported on Jan. 4.
“It means a lot to me because that’s what I know,” Nyaga said, joy streaming through the phone.
“Toronto, I can walk with my eyes closed. I am the GPS of this city … This is home. “
Nyaga came to Canada in 2000 and sought political asylum after saying he had been threatened and persecuted by the Kenyan government for opting for access as a member of the opposition Democratic Party, which he joined earlier this year Water and electricity for the rural poor had been used in the 1990s
When Nyaga joined the party in the early 1990s after decades of work at Barclays Bank, Kenya was on the verge of becoming a multi-party state.
In Canada, Nyaga’s refugee case took three years to negotiate and it was ultimately turned down because he could not produce a Democratic Party membership card. After juggling the system for an additional seven years, Canadian border officials determined that it was safe for Nyaga to return to Kenya. Since then, he has been reporting to the border authorities on Airport Road every week for over a decade, waiting for the day he has to leave.
Last month, more than 21 years after Nyaga first landed in Canada, he was told that he would be deported on January 4th.
“I have nothing left in Kenya,” Nyaga recently told the star’s Nicholas Keung.
Last month, Nyaga’s lawyer applied for humanitarian reasons to remain on the grounds that his client was a Canadian resident and that he would be in serious trouble if deported to Kenya.
“We were very, very confident that the (humanitarian and compassionate motion) would get through and that someone in higher positions would see their case,” said Ariel Hollander of Lewis & Associates law firm on Refugees and Immigration.
Nyaga’s story has been featured in other print and television media since it was first featured on the Star.
On Thursday, Hollander was told that Nyaga’s humanitarian and compassionate permanent residency application had in principle been approved by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
“The bottom line is that it won’t be removed,” said Hollander.
Nyaga was preparing to leave the country on Thursday when he was told he would have to report to the border office for his final interview, which had been postponed January 3.
“I was extremely nervous,” he said. “I suspected they might arrest me.”
Now he’s on his way to becoming a permanent resident.
“My conscience now tells me that I’ve settled in and that I’m starting a new life,” he said.
Nyaga, who worked as a security guard and concierge in a condominium building on Marine Parade Drive until his work permit expired in 2016, is a fixture at the Kenyan church near Davenport and Old Weston Streets, where he sets up chairs every Sunday the believers and purify them. He volunteers in the kitchen serving snacks and coffee to the homeless.
He really wants to go back to his old job, where he says: “A chair is waiting for me.”
Members of the Toronto Kenyan community began raising funds to hire an attorney for Nyaga in October and launched an online petition urging border officials to stop his deportation, which has since received more than 4,500 signatures.
“You mustn’t forget that Samuel’s story was unique,” said Hollander. His humanitarian application was approved in about a month – but he says many applicants are not so lucky and are deported before they ever hear a word.
Nyaga sends his “sincere thanks” to everyone who stepped in and helped him. He said he planned to buy a copy of the Star newspaper that featured this article to send home to his brother in Kenya.
“I love Toronto,” he said. “It’s our city.”
Correction – December 31, 2021: This article was edited to correct a quote by Ariel Hollander and to take into account that Nyaga’s story was also covered by other media outlets.
With files from Nicholas Keung
Lex Harvey is a Toronto-based newsletter producer for the star and author of the First Up newsletter. Follow her on Twitter: @lexharvs
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