The families – consisting of three Sri Lankan adults, a Filipina and three children – had an asylum claim in Hong Kong; however, they felt the claim might soon be rejected, prompting the push for Canada, lawyer Marc-Andre Seguin told Reuters on Friday.
“The families that sheltered me have formally filed for asylum in Canada. Let us pray Canada protects them in kind,” tweeted Snowden, who has been granted asylum in Russia since 2013.
The families, who housed and fed Snowden for two weeks before he fled to Russia, face adverse conditions in Hong Kong and are “actively sought by Sri Lankan operatives,” Seguin said.
“More than ever, relocating our clients to Canada is a question of life and death,” Seguin said in a statement obtained by Time.
A spokesperson for Canada’s immigration minister said it was policy not to comment on pending or possible cases.
The families seeking asylum first gained notoriety in September, when their role in helping the on-the-run leaker was revealed in the film “Snowden.” Snowden, a former government contractor, fled the U.S. after he stole and subsequently leaked thousands of computer files related to NSA surveillance operations at home and abroad.
One of those who aided Snowden, 44-year-old ex-Sri Lankan soldier Ajith Pushpakumara, arrived in Hong Kong in 2006, but is desperate to make his way to North America.
“I would choose Canada,” Pushpakumara said, according to the South China Morning Post. “I heard I could have good protection [there] and hopefully I could work.”