REGINA — Two Nigerian students who sought sanctuary in a Regina church to avoid deportation have voluntarily left Canada.
After nearly 500 days of seeking refuge, Victoria Ordu and Ihouma Amadi boarded a plane in Regina on Friday.
"I felt sad to see these two brave, brave, women leave," said University of Regina president Vianne Timmons, who said goodbye to Ordu and Amadi at the airport.
"But I also am focusing on looking forward and looking at how to advocate and support them on coming back and finishing their degree."
The two students were told in June 2012 that they had to leave Canada because they took summer jobs off campus without proper student work permits. The two girls spent a couple of weeks working at a Walmart.
But they only had social insurance cards that allowed them to work on campus. They said they didn't realize the mistake.
The Canada Border Services Agency did not return a call for comment Friday.
However, the agency has said that the responsibility to understand the limitations of working in Canada lies with international students.
The pair had completed three years of study at the university and had the support of fellow students, the provincial government, the Opposition NDP and Liberal MP Ralph Goodale.
The Saskatchewan government has said it appears the two women made an honest mistake and shouldn't be kicked out of the country.
In a statement Friday, the Saskatchewan government said it raised the issue with the federal government "numerous times asking for flexibility to allow the students to remain in Saskatchewan.'"
"We are told the two students left voluntarily and plan to reapply to come back to Saskatchewan to finish their education. We will continue to do whatever we can to ensure a favourable outcome,'" read the statement emailed to media.
Goodale says the deportation order was unfair, especially since the rules have since changed.
"What these girls did by working off campus on a student visa, which was technically against the rules, is now permitted or will be as of Dec. 31 of this year. The rules are being changed so that if they did, after Dec. 31, what they did a couple of years ago, it would be perfectly legal,'" said Goodale.
"So, in part, the government is already conceding that the previous rules were a bit archaic and they need to be fixed."