For­mer child refugee from So­ma­lia fac­ing un­fair de­por­ta­tion: ad­vo­cates

The Prince George Citizen - - Local - Michael Mac­DON­ALD

HAL­I­FAX — Refugee ad­vo­cates have launched a last-minute appeal for an Ed­mon­ton man fac­ing de­por­ta­tion to So­ma­lia be­cause he has a crim­i­nal record, say­ing the case of the for­mer child refugee is sim­i­lar to that of a Nova Sco­tia man who was al­lowed to stay in Canada.

Sup­port­ers held a news con­fer­ence Tues­day in Hal­i­fax, where they said it was im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that 34-year-old Ab­di­lahi Elmi fled So­ma­lia as a child and was later taken into foster care in On­tario – but provin­cial of­fi­cials failed to fill out pa­per­work that would have granted him per­ma­nent res­i­dency.

“This is a vi­o­la­tion of hu­man rights,” Hal­i­fax ac­tivist El Jones told a group of about a dozen pro­test­ers who crowded into the nar­row hall­way out­side the con­stituency of­fice of Hal­i­fax Lib­eral MP Andy Fill­more, who was away at the time.

Elmi’s lengthy crim­i­nal record in­cludes as­sault charges, which is why he is fac­ing de­por­ta­tion as a non-cit­i­zen.

On June 26, the Canada Bor­der Ser­vices Agency de­cided Elmi should be de­ported to Kis­mayo, So­ma­lia some time later this month.

“The re­moval of con­victed, re­peat of­fend­ers is an en­force­ment pri­or­ity,” the CBSA said in a state­ment.

Spokes­woman My­lene Estrada-Del Rosario said Elmi “has com­mit­ted ex­ten­sive crimes within Canada and is con­sid­ered a dan­ger to the pub­lic.”

How­ever, Jones said the fed­eral govern­ment should re­view the case be­cause Elmi’s cir­cum­stances are sim­i­lar to those of Ab­doul Abdi, an­other for­mer child refugee from So­ma­lia.

In July 2018, Abdi was al­lowed to stay in Canada af­ter a Fed­eral Court judge in Hal­i­fax set aside a de­ci­sion to re­fer Abdi’s case to a de­por­ta­tion hear­ing.

“Here we are, a year later, and we see that this is still con­tin­u­ing for peo­ple who have been in the child wel­fare sys­tem,” said Jones, who also worked on Abdi’s case. “It’s a very sim­ple ask: why can’t we change the law? It’s past time to change the law to en­sure that all chil­dren in care re­ceive their cit­i­zen­ship.”

Fed­eral Court Jus­tice Ann Marie McDon­ald ruled last year that a del­e­gate of fed­eral Pub­lic Safety Min­is­ter Ralph Goodale failed to con­sider the Char­ter of Rights and Free­doms in ar­riv­ing at her de­ci­sion to re­fer Abdi’s case to a de­por­ta­tion hear­ing.

McDon­ald also noted the del­e­gate was re­quired to weigh the ob­jec­tives of the Im­mi­gra­tion and Refugee Pro­tec­tion Act with the val­ues of the char­ter, and that her de­ci­sion was un­rea­son­able.

Abdi’s de­por­ta­tion hear­ing was stayed by Goodale. The court rul­ing re­sulted in changes to Nova Sco­tia’s child wel­fare rules. Ab­doul Abdi’s sis­ter, Fa­tuma Ab­doul, said she be­lieved the res­o­lu­tion of her brother’s case last year meant for­mer child refugees with­out cit­i­zen­ship would no longer face de­por­ta­tion for crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity.

“Ob­vi­ously, noth­ing has changed,” she said. “We’re mak­ing a plea for (Elmi) and try­ing to save his life.”

Elmi’s sup­port­ers say he should also be granted a re­prieve be­cause he faces “cer­tain death” in So­ma­lia, where he has no rel­a­tives and doesn’t un­der­stand the lan­guage.

Jones con­firmed refugee groups have joined forces to file a ju­di­cial re­view of Elmi’s case.

“No one is say­ing that he didn’t com­mit crim­i­nal acts,” she said. “We’re say­ing that the pay­ment for that should be prison and not de­por­ta­tion.”

Elmi ar­rived in Canada in 1994 at the age of 10 and was granted refugee sta­tus, but he was taken into foster care when he was 13 and was liv­ing on the streets by 16. Suf­fer­ing from sub­stance abuse issues, he got in trou­ble with the law and was charged with as­sault-re­lated of­fences.

By Tues­day af­ter­noon, an on­line pe­ti­tion had posted more than 3,400 names. The change.org site in­cludes a let­ter from Elmi, in which he says al­co­hol had clouded his think­ing.

“My fu­ture has been just liv­ing day to day in a cell, year af­ter year,” he wrote.

“This is not life at all. I want to be a bet­ter per­son ... I know that I have made a lot of mis­takes in my life that I can’t take back and I am not a bad per­son. I am a kind, help­ful, and lov­ing per­son.”

Robert Wright, a prom­i­nent Hal­i­fax so­cial worker, said Canada has an obli­ga­tion un­der the char­ter and in­ter­na­tional law to pro­tect the rights of vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren from other coun­tries.

“When a child is made a per­ma­nent ward of a provin­cial ju­ris­dic­tion, they have ef­fec­tively been adopted by this coun­try,” said Wright, for­mer ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the prov­ince’s chil­dren and youth strat­egy.

“It is our fail­ure to pro­vide ad­e­quately for our chil­dren in this state that re­sults in their lack of ed­u­ca­tion, their crim­i­nal­iza­tion and their bumpy tran­si­tion into a healthy and pro­duc­tive adult­hood .... It would be a trav­esty of jus­tice and a great shame to our coun­try if we did not in­ter­vene right now.”

CP PHOTO

Demon­stra­tors stand in the door­way of MP Andy Fill­more’s con­stituency of­fice ad­vo­cat­ing for a stay on the de­por­ta­tion of Ab­di­lahi Elmi to So­ma­lia dur­ing a protest in Hal­i­fax on Tues­day.

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