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Lawyers renew appeal to Canada for Snowden helpers

Lawyers renew appeal to Canada for Snowden helpers

The case grabbed global attention for its ties with the whistleblower Edward Snowden, who fled to Hong Kong after exposing the NSA's spying practices in 2013.

The asylum-seekers include two men and a woman from Sri Lanka, and a woman from the Philippines, along with their three children who were born in Hong Kong and are stateless.

After leaving his initial Hong Kong hotel bolthole for fear of being discovered, Snowden went underground, fed and looked after by the refugees for around two weeks.

It was not until previous year that the role Mr Tibbo and his clients played in sheltering Mr Snowden was revealed.

"The government's decision to reject our clients' claims is completely consistent with the effective zero acceptance rate [of asylum seekers] in Hong Kong", Tibbo tells TIME, calling the decision "completely unreasonable".

"The Hong Kong government has intentionally targeted these three families for screening, immediate screening, and this has created a real hardship for these families".

The four have also applied for asylum in Canada for themselves and their children.

"They made fully informed decisions but at the same time I feel a moral responsibility", he said.

Stories and photographs of the asylum-seekers have been published worldwide, including in Sri Lanka and the Philippines, where they fear persecution.

Snowden was brought to stay with the families in 2013 when he was on the run from the USA government, because Tibbo says he thought it would be the last place the authorities would look for him. Fearing that that Snowden could face rendition back to the US if he was located, Tibbo placed him in the care of the asylum seekers, reasoning that their apartments were among the last places anyone would look for the data leaker.

"I'm an army deserter person", said Ajith, adding that if he returned to Sri Lanka, "I will be tortured again".

The decision comes eight months after the release of the Oliver Stone movie "Snowden", which highlighted how the families had helped the world's most famous fugitive.

Marc-André Séguin, president of not-for-profit organization For The Refugees, told CNN that he has received confirmation that the families' asylum applications have been transferred to the Canadian consulate in Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong government "has repeatedly tried to question the four adults about their involvement with Mr. Snowden".

"We now have less than two weeks to submit appeals before the families are deported". "I don't want to be tortured".

Lawyers for the Snowden refugees separately lodged an asylum petition with the Canadian government in March and called for that process to be expedited Monday.


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