Behind closed doors, feds decide to keep Iranian refugee claimant in jail
In a hearing held Monday without his lawyer, family or surety present, a representative of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board assented to a federal lawyer’s request to keep Masoud Hajivand behind bars.
Hajivand has never committed – or been accused – of a crime. But he’s been held in various Ontario jails since June 27 – and will stay behind bars in for at least another month.
Lawyers representing the Canada Border Services Agency argue he should be locked up because he’s a “flight risk” – even though Hajivand has been living at the same address, and working at the same job, and filing taxes, for years.
Canada is trying to deport him to Iran, where Hajivand and his supporters are terrified he faces death or imprisonment because of his conversion to Christianity while in Canada.
While Hajivand’s hearing proceeded inside the CBSA detention centre in northwest Toronto, family members, a friend willing to offer surety, an electronic monitoring bracelet expert and a reporter waited outside, unaware it had started. Hajivand’s common-law spouse, Pam Shiraldini, had planned to make a case for bail, but he was forced to do so himself by video link, unsuccessfully.
“It just looks like it was a mixup,” said Charles Hawkins, a spokesperson for the Immigration and Refugee Board.
“There was no intention to prevent anyone from observing the hearing – we don’t have any problem with that at all. They are public hearings – we normally go out of our way to ensure that anyone who wants to observe, can observe.”
Hajivand’s lawyer Anthony Navaneelan wasn’t there – there wasn’t “a likely prospect of release,” he told Global News.
Navaneelan hopes to get Hajivand released through another “pre-removal risk assessment” – Hajivand’s third – so he can argue returning Hajivand to Iran would be dangerous.
Hajivand was first ordered deported in August, 2011 but didn’t show up to be deported. Since his arrest in June he has successfully resisted two attempts to deport him: On Canada Day, six CBSA officers gave up on trying to drag him out of his cell as he wept and clung to the bars.
On September 18, they got him as far as a cell at Pearson International Airport, where he tried to slit his wrists with a piece of metal he found in the cell.
READ THE SERIES: Canada’s Unwanted
Now, the holdup from the feds’ perspective is who pays approximately $330,000 for a charter flight to Tehran.
Because Hajivand arrived on an Air Canada flight without valid documents, the federal government wants the airline to pay for his ticket out of the country.
Air Canada has refused to speak with Global News about this case or about its cooperation with CBSA more broadly.
“Air Canada obviously does not want to pay for this,” Navaneelan said. “They are at ‘a stalemate’ with CBSA and it is not certain if or when removal will take place.”