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Last Updated Mon, 08 May 2006 20:56:27 EDT

CBC News

Seventeen years after he fled Vietnam, a resident of a Philippine refugee camp was finally reunited Sunday with his brother in Vancouver.

Lam Nguyen was one of eight people who arrived in British Columbia on the weekend to join their relatives as a result of changes to Canada’s immigration rules.

“I feel emotional and happy,” said  Lam Nguyen. “I couldn’t ever imagine one day I could see my brother again.”

Nguyen, 39, left Vietnam by boat in 1989, and ended up in the Philippines.

When he was denied legal entry into that country, Nguyen found himself in a legal limbo that would last almost two decades. Instead of immigrating to Canada, as his brother Dien had, Nguyen lived in a refugee camp, where he eventually married a Philippine-born woman and had a daughter.

Meanwhile, Dien Nguyen, now 45, was given refugee status and eventually relocated to Canada, settling in Surrey, B.C.

He tried to sponsor his brother as a new Canadian but was unsuccessful: For one thing, Lam didn’t have UN refugee status. For another, he was too old under Canadian family reunification rules.

Those rules were changed last year, in part due to lobbying from a group called SOS Viet Phi.

“We were able to talk to the minister,” said group spokesman Max Vo. “We were able to get through to his department and let them understand these people were indeed in need of Canada’s protection.

“Before, there was never an organized group to come up and bring the issue in front of the Canadian government.”

Lam Nguyen says he’s thankful for all those who helped him join his family.

He says he hopes about 140 other stateless Vietnamese who were in the same position as he was will be able to someday enjoy the same kind of welcome in Canada.

About 145,000 Vietnamese people came to Canada in the years after the Communists took over the country in 1975.

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