OTTAWA -- What do you do when Canada is the only country you’ve ever known but you’re at risk of being deported?

That is the question that keeps a family living in Ottawa awake at night, especially since the sudden separation from their father in June.

“His pillow case is upstairs with me and sometimes I just like shove my face in the pillow and I just try to scream,” says Camilla Hajrizi. She says her father’s deportation has been difficult to deal with as she struggles to comfort her mother.

The family’s story is complicated – to say the least.

Hajrizi says they arrived in Canada on February 12th, 1997 as a family of five. At the time, she would have been the youngest at just two years old. Her older sisters were three and seven. They had no say in the matter of being smuggled in to British Columbia with their parents who were fleeing war-torn Yugoslavia; and little to do with the bumpy road leading to what they are faced with today.

“The smuggler told my parents that they should identify themselves as Albanians because Roma people are not wanted anywhere in the world,” says Roksana Hajrizi. She says her father took that advice, while her mother maintained she was Roma.

The Roma or Romani people have historically been referred to as “gypsies” and have been the subject of violence in many parts of Europe. And the intolerance continues today. In April of this year, an independent United Nations expert called for immediate action to end discrimination and combat racist rhetoric against Roma – Europe’s largest minority group.

“I know what will happen if we are deported from Canada,” says Roksana. “So, I’m trying to advocate so someone can intervene in our case.”

Complicating things further is Roksana’s sexuality. She identifies as gay and says she would be under constant physical threat in the Republic of Kosovo if forced to return. She says Canada is where she feels safe to be who she is. The family has been in Ottawa since 2003.

Roksana feels her family would not be in this situation had it not been for repeated lawyer negligence on their file. CTV has not been able to independently confirm the statement; but she claims among several missteps, like failing to provide a translator in 1997, a former lawyer failed to submit papers for their refugee status application in a timely manner and it was rejected.

Still, there is more than one blemish on her parents’ criminal record. Both mother and father have been convicted of fraud and extortion. Her mother, Celina Urbanowicz, says it was in relation to bad cheques and stealing food and clothing for her children.

CTV’s Stefan Keyes was shown proof of Urbanowicz’s pardon granted by the courts in 2018.

“You know, people make mistakes but what’s more important than that mistake is how you move forward,” says daughter Roksana.

The family’s current lawyer, Nicholas Hersh, says a pre-removal risk assessment has been filed. It should prevent a sudden deportation for the remaining family members while under review by the government. In the meantime, they will be applying for permanent residency on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Hersh also says he has spoken to their father Ismet Hajrizi.

“He has explained to me that he was homeless for a while, and now lives in a small garage, sleeping on rolled up clothing. He alleges that he was assaulted twice,” says Hersh.

Roksana now has a doctor’s note dated December 16th, diagnosing her with bronchitis and pneumonia. Conditions she developed after camping out  for eight days near the National War Monument across from the Prime Minister’s office hoping to gain his attention.

So far, there has not been a response to the requests to meet with him.

An online petition currently has more than 4,000 electronic signatures.