Snowden Refugees
Photo by Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Sometimes, good things happen to good people.

Take Vanessa Rodel, an OFW from Hong Kong. There she was, minding her own business, when the opportunity to help came knocking.

And help she did, providing shelter to someone in need. Little did she know that she would end up helping Edward Snowden, the American fugitive wanted for leaking highly classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA).

For her troubles, the Government of Canada has granted Vanessa Rodel and her daughter, Keana Nihinsa asylum in Canada.

Multiple news outlets, including the Globe and Mail, reported the arrival of Vanessa Rodel and her daughter at Toronto Pearson International Airport from Hong Kong.

Vanessa Rodel and her daughter were privately sponsored by a Montreal-based not-for-profit group.

Vanessa Rodel is an OFW from Hong Kong, and was part of a small group of people who provided shelter to Edward Snowden, who was being sought by the United States government for leaking top secret documents to several newspapers.

It is alleged that Edward Snowden, a former analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), exposed top secret information from the National Security Agency (NSA), detailing covert surveillance programs which collected information from millions of people all over the world.

While in Hong Kong, Edward Snowden was sheltered by several people, including Vanessa Rodel.

Vanessa Rodel and his daughter are currently in Montreal, getting started with their new lives in Canada with the support of their private sponsors.

Snowden refugees
Photo: Apple

Who is Edward Snowden?

Edward Snowden is a former CIA employee. He is accused of leaking highly classified information which exposed NSA surveillance programs in 2013.

The documents, which were published by newspapers like The Washington Post and The New York Times, detailed extensive surveillance programs run by the NSA in cooperation with telecommunication companies and foreign governments.

Edward Snowden is charged with two violations of the Espionage Act of 1917 and theft of government property.

Edward Snowden flew to Hong Kong, where he leaked the documents to reporters, who published stories on their publications that quickly went viral.

To evade arrest, Edward Snowden moved from place to place, receiving help from the group that would eventually become known as the Snowden Refugees.

Snowden is currently in Moscow, Russia, where he was granted asylum by the Kremlin after the US government cancelled his passport.

One of these Good Samaritans who helped Edward Snowden during his stay in Hong Kong was Vanessa Rodel, an OFW based in Hong Kong.

Snowden refugees
Photo by Maria de la Guardia / Washington Post

Who is Vanessa Rodel?

Vanessa Rodel is a Filipino national who fled the Philippines in 2002 after being raped and trafficked by the New People’s Army (NPA). Her daughter was born in Hong Kong.

Vanessa Rodel is a member of the group collectively known as the Snowden Refugees. Together with her daughter, Vanessa Rodel was the first to arrive in Canada.

The Government of Canada’s immigration system allows for private individuals or groups to sponsor refugees from all over the world, primarily from war-torn countries such as Iraq and Syria.

The Philippines is generally not known as a source country for refugees, but Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) have been known to consider Filipino refugees on a case-to-case basis.

After a short period of time, Vanessa Rodel and her daughter will become Permanent Residents of Canada.

Snowden refugees
Photo by Fred Lum / The Globe and Mail

What is asylum?


Asylum is when a person faces persecution in home country, and seeks the protection of another.

Article 14 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”

Snowden refugees
Photo by 42 / The National Post

How can you apply for asylum in Canada?

The Government of Canada’s immigration policies allow foreign nationals to enter the country under many different programs.

Foreign nationals can make a refugee claim upon arrival to Canada, which will be investigated by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRBC).

The IRBC is the largest tribunal of its kind in the country, processing over 25,000 claims per year.

Negative decisions made by the IRBC can be appealed to the Federal Court.


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