British Columbia family trapped in the Philippines over worsening COVID-19 cases


A Nanaimo man says government red tape is preventing his wife and two children from returning safely to Canada from the Philippines.Martin McGeough’s wife, Joanne, was born in the Philippines, but is a permanent resident of Canada. Her four-year-old son and 20-month-old daughter are Canadian citizens born in Nanaimo.

Joanne was prevented from flying to Canada because her permanent resident card has expired and she does not have a current visa.

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“They are taking legal priority and protocol over protecting two very young Canadian lives, I don’t understand that,” he told Global News.

“The Philippines has in the past closed the border without notice, so that day they may not be able to return home, and they could be stuck there for months, if not a year.”

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The Philippines reported their fourth highest peak in new COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic on Saturday, according to ABS-CBN News.

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The family flew to the country in November, with Joanne entering on her Filipino passport. McGeough returned to Canada in January.

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Joanne and the children were due to return in early April, but were locked up when the COVID-19 pandemic broke; they have since encountered several problems in trying to book direct flights.

It wasn’t until last Tuesday that they got through – to find out the problem with his PR card at Manila airport, where they were denied boarding, he said.

“It’s a little too emotional,” was all McGeough could handle, his voice breaking when asked how much he missed his wife and children.

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The trio are currently with family in a suburb of Manila.

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McGeough worked with Paul Manly, MP for Nanaimo-Ladysmith, to try to resolve the documents problem.

Manly said there is no doubt that Joanne qualifies as someone who can enter the country during the pandemic, but without the right documents she cannot fly.

“She is absolutely an immediate family member, but she does not have up-to-date travel documents, and the person checking the documents did not let her board the plane,” he said. he declares.

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Joanne filed documents to renew the card on Wednesday and Manly said immigration officials were bending over backwards to resolve the issue.

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The relevant documents have now been sent to officials at the Canadian Embassy in Manila, where they are to be processed, he said.

“It is a truly unfortunate situation, but someone in Manila was following the protocols and procedures in place (when they denied boarding),” he said.

“There are currently thousands of people with expired permanent resident cards trying to update their… card so they can return to Canada.

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The family has booked a flight for Sunday but fear the paperwork will not be processed on time, leaving them trapped in a country where the pandemic is worsening.

Parts of the country are on lockdown as the number of cases increases.

McGeough said airline staff said he would let her board an airplane if they could provide a letter or email from Canadian officials stating their right to enter the country. He said officials were unwilling to do so.

He said he understands that Joanne’s map should have been updated, but given the crisis situation, I don’t understand why officials won’t put protocol aside until she and the kids are not on Canadian soil.

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“If you’re perfect and you’ve never forgotten to renew anything on time, congratulations, but I don’t know anyone in that situation,” he says.

“It’s outside of normal procedure and protocol shouldn’t come into play, they should just be able to take them home.”

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