FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ottawa advocates rally behind child refugee who ended-up in foster care,
was criminalized and now faces deportation to Somalia
was criminalized and now faces deportation to Somalia
Algonquin Territory / Ottawa, 20 August 2019 – Today, advocates in Halifax, Toronto, and other parts of Canada are holding peaceful protests to stand in solidarity with community members and advocates in Edmonton who are calling on Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale to stop the scheduled deportation of Mr. Abdilahi Elmi tomorrow on August 21st. Those gathered at a protest at 12:00pm in front of Minister Goodale’s office in Ottawa will demand Mr. Elmi, a former child refugee, not be deported to Somalia where he faces torture, indefinite detention and death.
Canada is failing Mr. Elmi who arrived in 1994 as a child refugee, at the age of ten, after living in a refugee camp with his grandmother for several years. A few years after his arrival, he was removed from his family home and placed in state care. Elmi ended up living on the streets by the age of sixteen, and became involved in the criminal justice system, in part, due to substance use issues that he is now working to manage.
The reason that Elmi faces not only incarceration, but deportation, is the result of neglect within the provincial child welfare system like in the well-documented case of Mr. Abdul Abdi, whose deportation was stayed on 17 June 2018 by Minister Goodale following a Federal Judge’s decision stating that the Canadian Government did not consider Mr. Abdi’s Charter Rights. Mr. Elmi, like Mr. Abdi, was a refugee in state care, but the child welfare agency that was responsible for him did not apply for his citizenship status. According to Aditya Rao, lawyer and member of the Ottawa Sanctuary Network (OSN), “The state has a responsibility to act in the best interests of refugee children in its care. The government has failed Abdullahi Elmi by not ensuring his immigration status was regularized while he was a ward of the state, and they cannot now turn around and penalize him for a mistake they themselves made”. Not only did the state not meet its obligations towards Mr. Elmi, who has been living as a refugee for 24 years, but it also prevented his mom from making an application for him. The federal government had a responsibility for Mr. Elmi’s education and safety, to regularize his status, and to create for him a meaningful path to citizenship, and they failed him at every turn.
On 26 June 2019, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) deemed Mr. Elmi inadmissible citing a clause in Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), which states that any foreign national with a sentence of imprisonment over six months may be deemed inadmissible to the country. While this clause is problematic in and of itself in that it doubly punishes persons convicted of an offence once through the criminal justice system and a second time through the immigration system, it wouldn’t have impacted Mr. Elmi if the child “welfare” system had done its job when they took Mr. Elmi into their custody and made him a ward of the state. Dr. Justin Piché, Associate Professor of Criminology at the University of Ottawa and member of the Criminalization and Punishment Education Project (CPEP), notes: “We have a child welfare to prison pipeline in this country, which Indigenous and other racialized people, are subject to at alarming rates. What’s happened to Mr. Elmi is unjust and deporting him will only compound the damage that’s been done. Minister Goodale must put an end to this and stay the deportation of Mr. Elmi similarly to how he stayed Mr. Abdi’s. Furthermore, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada Ahmed Hussen, a former refugee himself, needs to display strong leadership and advocate for the creation of more avenues to citizenship for child refugees, including when they are ripped away from their families by the child welfare system”.
Should Mr. Elmi get deported to Somalia it’s likely that the Government of Canada will expose him to great harm. Mr. Elmi doesn’t know anything about his birth father, nor his birth father’s name, antecedents and familial relationships. He doesn’t know the clan in Somalia that he belongs to since he doesn’t know his birth father’s clan and since the acquisition of Somali citizenship is based on a patrilineal system, Mr. Elmi will be severely prejudiced by his removal to that country by Canada. As Mr. Elmi’s mother, Faduma Isse, asserted during a recent press conference, her son “has no family and doesn’t know the language and culture there. I don’t approve of his mistakes, but he would die if he’s sent back to Somalia”. The Somali government is unlikely to release Mr. Elmi to roam the streets of Kismayo or Mogadishu upon arrival in the country if he’s not able to prove that he’s a citizen of that country. Having never held a Somali passport, it’s unlikely that Mr. Elmi will be able to prove his citizenship of Somalia. The likely outcome is that Mr. Elmi will be detained without a criminal charge for a lengthy period time and will only be released at the whim of the government. The possibility that Mr. Elmi will be detained without a criminal charge and face torture and/or be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment in Somalia infringes upon Mr. Elmi’s section 7 Charter right. Canada must uphold Mr. Elmi’s human rights by not signing what likely could become his death warrant.
Members of the community concerned about the human rights of refugees are encouraged to participate in this non-violent action organized by Ottawa Sanctuary Network, Criminalization and Punishment Education Project, and Migrante Canada.
To arrange for interviews with organizers and speakers, please contact:
Souheil Benslimane, Member of CPEP and OSN
firstname.lastname@example.org, (819) 592-6469