The decision allows Philippines national Vanessa Rodel and her 7-year-old daughter Keana to leave Hong Kong after living in the city without proper legal status for years.
“I’m truly happy,” Rodel said. “I’m so excited. I can’t sleep.”
Rodel and two Sri Lankan families put up Snowden shortly after he went public in 2013.
At the time, Snowden’s lawyer Robert Tibbo worried that his client could face possible rendition back to the US, where he was branded a traitor.
So Tibbo advised Snowden to hide with Hong Kong refugees because he thought it would be the last place anyone would look.
“This has been a seven year battle,” said Tibbo, who also represents the refugees who hid Snowden.
As of now, only Rodel and her daughter Keana have been granted asylum in Canada. Lawyers working on behalf of the other refugees who hid Snowden said the Canadian government is still considering their cases.
Rodel told CNN the process has been long, arduous and depressing. She said she came to Hong Kong because she was a victim of human trafficking in her home country of the Philippines, and is too afraid to go home. However, as a refugee without legal status, she also does not feel safe in Hong Kong.
“There’s nothing here,” Rodel said. “It’s a living hell in Hong Kong. We’ve had a miserable life in Hong Kong.”
Rodel said in Canada, she hopes she and her daughter can learn French, buy a home and perhaps even enroll in university.
Keana doesn’t remember much of Snowden, except that he has short hair. She said she’s excited for her new life in Canada, and is looking forward to seeing snow for the first time and Siberian huskies.
The three families they always faced long odds on being granted legal status in Hong Kong.
Those who are not recognized have trouble accessing basic services like healthcare or police protection. Children born here to refugees, like Rodel’s daughter Keana, are effectively stateless. Keana does not have a passport.