After 10 years in Canada, Alpha Ndamati is resigned to giving up the immigration process, and is now actively trying to get deported.
After years of red tape trying to become a permanent resident, the Nigerian man has been asking to leave the country and go home. But he's been given little direction on how to do so, and is asking why something he thought would be straightforward — immigrating to the N.W.T. — has left him at the end of his rope.
"I'm left dumbfounded," he said. "I don't wish this situation for my worst enemy."
His bags are packed, and he's telling his story in hopes that no one else has to repeat his experience. Ndamati says he can't afford a ticket home himself, so he's trying to get a removal order issued by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada or the Canada Border Services Agency, forcing him to go. But he doesn't know how.
"If it means going back home, I'm willing to do that. But I don't want to see anybody go through the ordeal that I've gone through to get something that looks simple."
Years of trying to stay
When he graduated from Dalhousie University in 2014, he was hopeful that he could find his way into permanent residency within the three years before his post-graduate studies visa expired.
Ndamati stayed in Halifax looking for a job, before moving to B.C. to work in the oil and gas sector and then onto Yellowknife about halfway through his visa.
He says we wanted to move to the N.W.T. for a long time. When he saw online what appeared to be a seemingly straightforward immigration process with the territory's nominee program, he was sold.
In June 2016, he got a job working at Corothers Home Hardware, and after six months of employment they agreed to help him apply for the territory's employer-driven nominee program.
If you advertise for me to come in, and I come in, and you push me out like this. - Alpha Ndamati
But the employer failed to meet all the requirements and the application was denied, forcing Ndamati through more hoops. Despite help from a local law firm, and losing $2,000 to a dubious consultant he met through church, his last work visa expired in September 2019.
He has reached out to MLAs for advice, as well as the federal government, and has been in touch with the Nigerian embassy in Ottawa. He says he has twice reached out to MP Michael McLeod's office to no avail. (McLeod's office wouldn't comment, pointing CBC to Canada Border Services Agency.)
He gave up on the visa application process, feeling it was hopeless, and stopped working altogether out of fears that he would be committing a crime and get deported. But now all of his savings have dried up, and not wanting to go through the process again, he is asking Canada to send him back.
"This has been 10 years. I'm not supposed to be in this position if I've done everything outlined that I should do."
No direction on how to stay, or how to leave
A few months ago he says he called the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), asking them how he could start the process of being deported. He says the agency told him that leaving the N.W.T. was under the RCMP's jurisdiction.
So, a couple of weeks ago, he says he went to Yellowknife's RCMP detachment to get sent out of the country, only to be told that it was the responsibility of the CBSA.
A spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada told CBC that the border services agency is responsible for immigration enforcement.
A spokesperson for the CBSA noted in an email that "any persons subject to a removal order can voluntarily depart the country and validate their removal from Canada at the CBSA office at the port of departure."
CBC asked the agency how someone such as Ndamati can obtain a removal order, if they are willingly opting to leave but have not been told to, but did not hear back by the time of publication.
Immigration is ultimately something that falls under federal jurisdiction, but nominee programs aim to allow provinces and territories to attract and select the newcomers to fill critical labour shortages and promote business development.
The N.W.T. provides a nomination certificate to successful applicants, who then apply to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada for a review of whether the applicant is admissible to Canada.
In 2017, the territorial government released its first-ever Northwest Territories' Immigration Strategy, a five-year plan to boost the nominee program.
A spokesperson for the territory's Department of Education, Culture, and Employment told CBC that in the past three years they have taken multiple steps to encourage foreign nationals to settle in the territory, including promoting the program and making more information available online.
The department said that in 2018 and 2019, approximately 80 per cent of complete applications submitted to the program were approved. And while they used to assess incomplete applications, they no longer do.
But unfortunately, in cases like Ndamati's, some people don't always get the result they hoped for.
The department says this can happen for multiple reasons, including the employee moving out of the territory, the application not meeting program criteria, and the employer withdrawing the application.
For Ndamati, he's looking forward to putting years of confusion behind him. He just hopes it doesn't happen to anyone else.
"I don't understand. If you advertise for me to come in, and I come in, and you push me out like this."