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07/05/2011

Learning life isn't always fair

Rick Madonik, Staff Photographer

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Camilo Martinez, 4, looks back over his shoulder as the family heads to the Immigration office. The Martinez family is deported from Canada for Colombia after a failed attempt to seek asylum in Canada.

They came in a sizeable gaggle – the friends of Sebastian Martinez. Either classmates, or schoolmates, they gathered clutching blackberries and iPhones. The girls cried openly, the boys did their best to hold back their true feelings. It was such an emotional scene I found myself wiping tears from my own eyes as I photographed the outpouring of emotion as the Martinez family prepared to enter the secured door behind the Immigration offices at Pearson Airport.

Sebastian’s mom, Claudia Londono, a psychologist in her native Colombia where she worked for the government, fled the country with her husband and young son (Sebastian) after her life was threatened by members of Colombia’s guerrilla uprising – FARC. In her job, Londono was trying to help reintegrate the fighters into society. For her work, FARC threatened her life. It started back in the late 90s and has continued. Just a few months ago, Londono’s life was again threatened in letters via her mother (who lives in Colombia).

The family first fled to the U.S. on tourist visas. They stayed there for several years before coming to Canada to seek asylum. (Apparently, asylum in the U.S. wasn’t viable, so they headed to Canada for safety.) Despite the years here, and their current situation, Canada has denied the family a safe haven. With that, last Friday the family of four boarded an aircraft and returned to Colombia.

The good news is they have family there who will not only meet them at the airport, but also offer some support until they can reestablish themselves, or find another other alternatives.

But this lesson in life - as one parent of a friend of Sebastians told me - is where his teenage daughter is learning “life isn’t fair.” Her friend and younger sibling, are caught up in the geopolitical mess of their homeland (Camilo was born in the U.S., the rest of the family all Colombian citizens).

The denial of asylum to Claudia Londono meant the return of the entire Martinez family. For the friends of Sebastian, it meant an awareness to issues outside of daily life which can, and does, interrupt life. The kids, many weeping openly and being consoled by others, had great difficulty accepting the reality before them. Even once through the secured doors of Immigration, some believed the removal could still be halted. They continued to tweet, and post to Facebook, hoping Immigration Minister Jason Keeney would hear their pleas.

Some of the adults, also, found the decision to deny asylum unfounded. One father, there to support his daughter who is friends with Sebastian, told Claudia, “this isn’t my Canada” as he shook his head in dismay and said his goodbyes.

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The Martinez family arrives at the airport for their deportation to Colombia. Juan Martinez (pointing) and wife Claudia Londono (right) are followed by youngest child Camilo, 4. (Sebestian is not seen). 

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Claudia Londono holds back her tears after arriving at Pearson Airport for her families deportation. 

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Sebestian Martinez, 13, thanks one of his friends for the hat and promised to give it back when he returns.

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Sebestian Martinez hugs friend Becky Theodorou, 12, as another friends snaps a picture before the family slipped into the Immigration office. 

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Nicole Bejarano, 3, whispers to her friend Camilo Martinez, 4, who left for Colombia with his family.

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Sebestian Martinez talks to the media while his friends, and parents of friends, weep at his departure. 

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The looks on the faces of Camilo, 4, (left) and Sebestian, 13, tells the story as the family enters the Immigration office with parents Claudia Londono and Juan Martinez (entering the door).

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Alexandra Theodorou, 14, rubs her friend's back, Jessica Petzourov, 14, after their friend Sebestian Martinez went into the Immigration offices.

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Jake Roden, 13, looks dejected after his friend Sebestian Martinez went behind the doors at Immigration. 

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Sebestian's friends offer a prayer outside the doors to the Immigration offices. 

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Friends gather around to listen to a letter written to them by Sebastian.

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Daniel Drozd, 14, holds the letter penned by Sebastian Martinez after he was told he could not come out of the Immigration office to say goodbye. 

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The social media campaign for friend Sebastian Martinez continues. 

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Friends console each other in front of the sign which points to the Immigration offices. 

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Some were inconsolable after Sebastian and family went behind the secured doors of the Immigration office.

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Nicole Bejarano, 3, gives Callan Nickelson, 14, a hug. Nicole is friends with Camilo Martinez, 4, and Callan with Sebastian, 14. The Martinez family is deported from Canada for Colombia after a failed attempt to seek asylum in Canada. 


 

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