Canadian citizen stranded in Turkey for 2 months after thieves stole his travel documents

Stranded in a foreign country for two months, Ekaterina Usmanova admitted that she “cryed with all her might.”

In August, Canadian permanent residents returned to Russia for the first time in nearly three years to visit their families. Like many people who cannot visit each other while on opposite sides of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced them apart

On her way back to Toronto, the 26-year-old woman stopped in Istanbul, Turkey. That's where his journey takes a massive detour when his travel wallet and Canadian permanent resident (PR) card are stolen.

As the panic set in, he recalled his thoughts, "I've just lost my whole life; I've just lost everything I've worked for."

He said blind spots with security cameras at the airport meant officers couldn't see the culprit behind the brazen theft.

Alone in a country she had never been to before, Usmanova filed a police report and then went to the Canadian consulate in Istanbul to try to change her PR card. He was not even allowed into the office and was denied access because he was only a permanent resident, not a full citizen.

The next step is to submit the documents to the Canadian embassy in the Turkish capital, Ankara. That was two months ago.

Usmanova has contacted Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada on several occasions. Exasperated, he told CTV National News: "It's very difficult to contact any human being, to get any human correspondence."

Almost defeated, he admits, "I have exhausted all my emotions during this very stressful journey."

Eight years ago, Usmanova moved alone to Vancouver as a teenager to attend university. Three years ago, he decided to move to Toronto to continue building his life and start his professional career as a marketing manager and professional photographer.

She admits, "I don't have a home anywhere else than in Canada, because most of my adult life that's where I've lived."

Traveling with Canadian newspapers as a permanent resident, she thought her emergency situation as a young woman trapped in a foreign country would hasten any proceedings by Canadian officials. That's not the experience.

“I think it will take about two, four weeks maximum for me to pack my things and come back. I definitely didn't know it would turn out like this. ”

He added that the government's lack of action "definitely adds a big and bitter drop to my teardrop glass at this point."

Usmanova said she had to move 15 times over a 58-day period while in Turkey. He was forced to leave the country and return to Russia, where he is now awaiting news of when he will be able to return to Canada.

Last week, he said he received a message from his employer in Toronto.

"Unfortunately, my company had to terminate my position after two months of uncertainty," he said.

Usmanova isn't sure how she will pay the rent at her condo in Toronto, where she is financially supporting her younger sister who goes to college and lives with her.

Putting on a brave face, he said, “I don't want to think negatively. I am a great fighter. I don't want to think we could lose our apartment."

Sitting in their Toronto condo with them, her younger sister, Sofiia Usmanova, reads sticky notes on the fridge that they would write and leave each other.

One of Sofia's favorite notes reads, "Thank you for your unconditional love."

The 20-year-old said she had called immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada several times a day for weeks, but always received the same frustrating automated message: "We are experiencing high call volume, please call again later."

When asked if he believed the Canadian government was handling his sister's situation with the urgency he believed needed, he emphatically said, “no, you don't feel like you are valued or that this case is important to the Canadian government. ."

Reflecting on her experience of trying to contact Canadian immigration officials for help, the younger Usmanova shared that “it's not just about her, it's about the immigration system, the whole system isn't working properly.”

Canada plans to welcome nearly 1.5 million new permanent residents over the next three years, in part to fill critical job shortages in various sectors. However, an immigration attorney believes that the Canadian system is in disarray and deficiencies must be addressed urgently.

"The status quo is unacceptable, you've got huge backlogs, you've had huge delays, but you want to increase immigration at the same time," attorney Matthew Jeffery told CTV National News.

"The government should devote greater resources to the immigration department to ensure staff are there to process applications in a timely manner."

CTV National News contacted Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada about Usmanova's case several times this week. However, they were unable to provide updates before our deadline.

One day after sitting down with CTV National News, Ekaterina Usmanova received an email from the office of the Minister of Immigration, which said, “Please rest assured that every effort has been made to deal with received applications in the most efficient and effective manner. However, due to COVID-19, all existing and new applications will continue to be processed but may experience delays."

"I don't think (email) remotely can be considered satisfactory," Usmanova said.

He wanted to return to the life he worked so hard for in Canada.

He shared this message with anyone who reads his story, including the Canadian government: “I'm trying to get back to my life in Canada, I want to go back to my sister to take care of her, I want to go back to the life I've built over the last eight years, and my house is in Toronto. Please, I want to go home.”

Usmanova has been left in immigration limbo, unable to return home to Canada for 71 days and counting.

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