Mohammed Alajarmeh was just 21 when he left his home in Jordan in search of a better life.
“I have my own story, my own issues,” he told Global News from his home in Vancouver, British Columbia. “We want to live a life, a normal and pleasant life. Work (in) the morning, do your job, come home, that’s what we need.
His trip to Canada, however, was not easy. Shortly after arriving in the United States, Alajarmeh was put in touch with someone he thought was an immigration attorney.
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“He said to me, ‘You can get your citizenship in Canada and have a better life and job and in two months you’ll get your PR (permanent resident status),'” he said. “He called me every day (saying) that Canada is better. Come here! It’s easy.”
Convinced by a cousin who had used the man’s services, Alajarmeh agreed to pay the smuggler $4,000 and fly to a house just outside the British Columbia border in the state of Washington. Early one morning, he said, he crossed the border to where a car was waiting to pick him up.
“At 6 a.m. he picked me up and drove me to the airport,” Alajarmeh recalls. “I paid him the money and he took me to a house in Calgary.”
The smuggler’s promise of permanent resident status or a work visa never materialized. Alajarmeh got into debt with the smuggler. He says he was exploited to work for him as a driver, eventually learning he had unknowingly helped smuggle other migrants into the country.
“To them, you are money, that’s all,” Alajarmah said. “He rented me an apartment and told me I owed him rent. When I told him I couldn’t find a job, he was like, ‘Why don’t you drive for me? I’ll pay you three hundred dollars, four hundred dollars to drive from Calgary to Vancouver and from Vancouver to Calgary.
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Alajarmah says he eventually told a Canada Border Services Agency investigator everything he knew about the smuggling operation. Thaer Abuelhaija, who presents himself as an immigration consultant in Calgary, was accused with 48 criminal offenses under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
Alajarmah says hearing about the tragedy in Manitoba last week, when the bodies of four people were found in an ice field near the Manitoba-U.S. border, made him feel a sense of loss. . According to US officials, the four were part of a larger group of Indian nationals trying to enter the United States illegally. Steve Shand, 47, has been charged with human trafficking.
“I told a friend that I knew this was coming,” Alajarmah said. “I know how (the smugglers) talk. They say, ‘Come on, it’s good. You will have your life, you will have your paper, we want to help you, we are your brothers. People just want a better life.
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