Development & Education

Nigerian students return to Canada after being deported for working at Walmart

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Credit: Sean Tucker

Victoria Ordu and Favour Amadi arrive back in Canada at Regina International Airport on June 7, 2014.

Favour Amadi and Victoria Ordu left their homes in Nigeria in 2009 to build better futures.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.)

They traveled, both on scholarships, to study at the University of Regina in Canada. In 2011, the women took part-time jobs at a local Walmart to help with their expenses.

And that's when everything changed.

They found out the hard way that working was a violation of their student visas. They were only allowed to work on campus.

The Canadian government issued deportation orders, so in 2012, the women sought sanctuary at a local church. After 486 days in sanctuary, the women gave up their fight to stay and were deported back to Nigeria.

But that's not the end of the story.

Students and faculty at the University of Regina lobbied the Canadian government to allow the two women to return to Regina to complete their studies.

"These were two young women who worked at Walmart for two weeks," said Michelle Stewart, an assistant professor at the University of Regina. "They thought that they were allowed to work on- and off-campus. It was a mistake. It was a violation of the terms of their visa. But the punishment needed to fit the crime, and I think that was the biggest concern we had."

Stewart has supported Amadi and Ordu's efforts to return to Regina and she helped create a legal defense fund for international students.

"They decided to take a stand and fight their deportation by going into sanctuary for 15 months, which raised a lot of questions at the local and regional level about injustices within the immigration process," she said. "So, although Victoria and Favour did have to return to Nigeria, and that’s when they went through the regular immigration process to reapply to return to the country, since that time, immigration laws have changed."

The Canadian government has changed its policy and international students with study permits are now allowed to work off-campus.

"It's still like a dream to me, you know. It still hasn't set in yet. We're very, very happy to be back here to complete our education," Amadi said after arriving at Regina International Airport on Saturday.

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