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How a recruit from Russia was managed to get asylum in Canada


Modlyi was visiting his sister, Valeriia Granillo, in Grande Prairie, Alta., when Russia invaded Ukraine last February.

While he was in Canada, his parents received a conscription notice for him. That is when Modlyi said he decided to apply to become a refugee.

I don't want to kill

"There is no possibility for me to [go] home because I would be drafted [into] the war, and I don't want to take part in it. I don't want to kill innocent people in Ukraine," he said.

Simon Yu, an immigration and refugee lawyer in Edmonton, worked with Modlyi on the claim. Modlyi was determined by the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) to be a Convention refugee — a status that is granted to someone who is outside their home country and is not able to return because of a "well-founded fear of persecution."

"He and his sister and his parents back home strongly believed that if he goes back there, there would be a strong opportunity that he will be sent to the conflict area — he would be fighting in Ukraine," the lawyer said.

Simon Yu, an immigration and refugee lawyer in Edmonton
Photo: Samuel Martin / CBC

Yu said the family provided newspaper articles that conscripts were being sent to the front lines and that the atrocities committed in Bucha, Ukraine, against civilians in the early days of the war involved soldiers from Modlyi's region, all of which supported his refugee claim.

there is no way back

Аt the end of 2022 Modlyi received notice that his claim for refugee status in Canada had been accepted.

"It was a relief for me — and for both of them, too — because now we know that he doesn't need to go back and face imminent danger, whether it's a criminal prosecution by the government or being sent to fight in Ukraine," Yu said.

Trofim, too, is happy with the court's decision.

"I no longer need to worry about going back to Russia. Obviously I felt, like, fully safe that I don't need to go to Ukraine and take part in this war," Modlyi said.

However, now that his claim has been accepted, Modlyi can never return to Russia, even if there is a regime change.

Now he is adjusting to his new life in Canada. He started working at a local McDonald's, plays volleyball and wants to go back to school to become a pharmacist.

Granillo, Modlyi's sister, said the decision in favour of her brother's refugee claim took a weight off her shoulders.

Valeriia Granillo with her brother
Photo: СВС

"All this time I've been thinking of him going back. What are we going to do?" she said.

"The price we pay as a humanity is so much," she said, referring to the war. "How many people every day now are losing their lives?".

Granillo, who moved to Canada in 2012 in search of better opportunities, now works in cancer care and is a Canadian citizen.

She is hopeful, though, that, one day, she will be able to sponsor their parents to come to Canada so the family can be reunited.

"I miss my family. My mom and dad are still there," Modlyi said. "That's the only thing I missed about Russia, but hopefully we'll see each other somewhere else."

Does patriotism win?

Statistics from Canada's IRB show that 115 people applied for refugee status between Feb. 24, 2022, the start of the war, to Nov. 30, 2022.

During the same time period in 2021, claims from 47 people were referred to the board, compared with 24 in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, and 96 in 2019.

Maria Popova, an associate professor at McGill University in Montreal who specializes in Russian politics, said Russia has had a very oppressive regime for at least 10 years that targeted political dissidents and LGBTQ individuals.

But she is surprised that the refugee claim numbers for 2022 are not higher.

"Launching a war of aggression like the Russian state has done against Ukraine, I would think that more people would have wanted to leave Russia as a sign of protest," Popova said.

Source: CBC