Three families who are said to have helped former NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden while he was in Hong Kong in 2013 following the leaking of mass surveillance information from the NSA are now seeking asylum in Canada.
The trio of families made up of three adults from Sri Lanka, a Filipina, and three children decided to seek asylum in Canada fearing that their long-pending Hong Kong asylum claims will eventually be rejected.
Their lawyer, Marc-Andre Seguin, divulged their current predicament via a phone interview from Hong Kong.
He is hoping that the Canadian immigration minister will exercise discretionary power to expedite the process of the families’ asylum claim seeing that theirs is a matter of urgency, according to a South China Morning Post article.
The three families were apparently instrumental in Edward Snowden’s escape from the United States.
They fed and housed him for two weeks before he finally fled to Russia, where he is currently looking to acquire citizenship by the start of next year.
However, the families are still living in abject poverty in Hong Kong since 2013 after they became unable to find work in light of the Edward Snowden saga.
Oliver Stone Film “Snowden” Responsible for Recent Turn of Events
According to their lawyer, it is the Edward Snowden movie “Snowden,” produced by Oliver Stone, that directed attention to the three families.
In the movie, their role was explicitly highlighted as that of aiders in Edward Snowden’s journey to escape prosecution in the United States via Hong Kong before ultimately ending up in Russia.
Also caught in the spotlight is a Hong Kong-based lawyer who goes by the name Robert Tibbo, allegedly the person who first introduced Edward Snowden to the three families.
It is said that conditions are becoming increasingly adverse for all the people involved in the Edward Snowden saga.
Hong Kong Refugees Fear for their Safety
One of the Sri Lankan’s, 44-year-old Ajith Pushpakumara, is an ex-Sri Lankan soldier who settled in Hong Kong in 2006.
Now, he is eager to leave the territory and has set his sights on North America.
He is hopeful that Canada would offer them enough protection.
Vanessa Rodel, a native of Philippines and one of the refugees, is also optimistic that Canada holds a new life for them, one that is without the poverty and fear they live with currently.
Edward Snowden posted a tweet pertaining to the matter shortly after it became public, saying that he was hopeful Canada would grant them the asylum they needed.
Above all, the families and the lawyer currently have to deal with a looming fear for their personal safety after suspecting that Sri Lankan operatives are actively looking for them to return them to Sri Lanka.
This has been the story corroborated by the individuals involved in the Edward Snowden saga and their lawyer Mr. Seguin, although Reuters has stated that it cannot independently verify the allegations.
The Hong Kong authorities responded to this particular claim with an assurance of everyone’s safety within their territory.
According to a Security Bureau spokesman, it is illegal for foreign agencies to operate within Hong Kong given that they have no jurisdiction there.
This unfolding Edward Snowden saga has caught the attention of several people including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the actor who played Edward Snowden in the Oliver Stone movie, who is now working alongside Seguin to raise awareness about their situation.
Canada Remains Mum on Asylum Claim’s Progress
Canada’s immigration office has declined to share any information pertaining to their immigration cases.
Speaking through the Immigration Minister’s spokeswoman, they neither confirm nor deny receiving asylum applications from the three Hong Kong-based families.
Edward Snowden remains one of the most internationally controversial figures after his leak caused an uproar and created widespread public distrust in authorities.
His breach of the United States’ classified operations has earned him various titles, a traitor and a whistleblower being a few of the conflicting ones.
He is currently still residing in Russia with a three-year asylum in effect, and is expected to apply for Russian citizenship next year according to his lawyer.