MONTREAL -- A groundswell of support has arisen around the case of a man who is facing deportation, despite working in several Montreal nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mamadou Konate is currently behind bars in a migrant detention centre. Last month, the Quebec government made exemptions for some asylum seekers who worked in long-term care facilities during the crisis. Premier Francois Legault praised their efforts, calling them “angels.”

“I appreciate very much the work they did and the risk they took working in our CHSLDs,” he said at the time.

But the residency fast-track program applies only to those who worked as nurses and orderlies, leaving an estimated 3,000 people in Montreal who worked in the CHSLDs still at risk of deportation.

“The government is using terminology like 'guardian angel' for that field of workers and the pandemic has illustrated that everything is tied together,” said Stefan Christoff of the Immigrant Workers Centre.

On Wednesday, protesters gathered outside complexe Guy Favreau on Rene-Levesque Blvd. to voice their displeasure with Konate's case. Konate fled a war in the Ivory Coast after being imprisoned. He worked in CHSLDs as a janitor and contracted COVID-19 in April.

Last week, Konate went to the Immigration Canada offices on the advice of his lawyer but found himself being detained.

“It's very noble for them to do that sacrifice and they really don't deserve treatment like this,” said a man who asked to be identified only as Abdoul and who is with Solidarity Across Borders. “Especially around this time, people don't really deserve to be detained at a Laval detention centre.”