December 23, 2015 - 7:00 AM
VANCOUVER - An asylum seeker from El Salvador who spent two years in sanctuary inside a British Columbia church has been handed freedom by the federal government.
Jose Figueroa has been granted an exemption to remain in Canada by Immigration Minister John McCallum as a permanent resident on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
The 48-year-old sought refuge at a church in Langley, B.C., in October 2013 after a warrant was issued for his arrest despite protests from supporters across the country.
Figueroa, who has lived in B.C. for 18 years, says he and his wife and three children are overjoyed — and he believes his change in status can be largely credited to the new Liberal government.
In 2010, Immigration and Refugee Board officials declared Figueroa inadmissible as a refugee claimant pointing to his admitted membership in a revolutionary group called FMLN during a civil war in the 1980s.
Figueroa says he was helping his countrymen who were being murdered by death squads, and that same revolutionary group is now the political party that forms El Salvador's democratically elected government.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2015