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Rights group, lawyers demand release of Canadian student detained by BI

By: InterAksyon.com
September 14, 2013 7:39 PM

MANILA, Philippines — Human rights activists and lawyers slammed the Bureau of Immigration for arresting and detaining Friday night a Canadian who was on her way home after completing her university internship program in the country.

Karapatan and the National Union of People’s Lawyers said Kim Chatillion-Meunier, a 24-year old graduate student at Université de Montreal, was apprehended as she passed through immigration at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport to board a 7:10 p.m. flight for Hong Kong.

Chatillon-Meunier, who is detained at the BI detention facility in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City, was apparently placed on the immigration “watch-list” for allegedly participating in a march to protest President Benigno Aquino III’s state of the national address in July.

This would make her the second foreigner to be detained and subsequently deported by the BI for joining the anti-SON protest after Dutchman Thomas van Beersum, who was also detained as he was about to board his flight home.

However, Karapatan said that, “contrary to BI’s allegations, Kim was not able to join the march of the People’s SONA,” although it acknowledged that the Canadian “arrived at the rally site in time to observe the … program.”

Chatillon-Meunier was selected by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada to go into an internship program in the Philippines called “Students for Development,” which is sponsored and financed by the Canadian International Development Agency, which is also a major source of development aid to the country.

“While in the Philippines, she was able to attend the International Conference on Human Rights in the Philippines in July,” as well as the International Solidarity and Humanitarian Mission in Quezon province together with other foreigners, Karapatan said.

“She was also involved in the research and documentation of the reproductive health conditions of women in Tondo, Manila,” it added.

Karapatan said at Bagong Diwa, “BI agents attempted to search Kim’s bags but (were) prevented (from doing so) when a Karapatan staff and NUPL lawyer Edre Olalia intervened and asserted that the BI has no search warrant.”

The NUPL, in a separate statement, called the BI’s reason for detaining the Canadian “dubious” and said it “speaks volumes of how government regards its own constitution and laws on basic rights.”

“It once again reflects on the utter disregard of pertinent international laws and conventions,” the lawyers’ group said.

“Her unjustified incarceration is even more revolting in the light of the free and unhampered egress of some suspected criminals and plunderers who are laughing all the way past porous immigration borders,” it added.

The NUPL said it plans to file complaints before the United Nations Human Rights Committee over the incident.

“The authorities must let her go and allow her to come home to her family. It is incumbent on the government to tell this traumatized young lady student who chose to come here whether indeed it is more fun in the Philippines,” the group said.