The Edmonton terror suspect was able to make a successful asylum claim in Canada after U.S. authorities ordered him deported from their country because there was no evidence of criminal activity, according to the office of Canada’s public safety minister.
The government of Canada won’t disclose exactly why Abdulahi Sharif was ordered deported by U.S. immigration officials, citing privacy laws.
“According to U.S. authorities, he was not detained for criminal activity,” a spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told Global News.
“Only individuals who are inadmissible, including for serious criminality, would be ineligible to make an asylum claim.”
An email from Customs and Border Protection in the U.S., however, revealed Sharif arrived, on foot, at a port of entry along the California-Mexico border, without any documents or legal status to enter the United States.
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Slipping into Canada
Being detained for immigration purposes in the United States would have no bearing on Sharif’s ability to make an asylum claim in Canada, the spokesman said.
On Tuesday, shortly after Sharif made his first court appearance as the sole suspect in two vehicle attacks, U.S. officials confirmed an immigration judge had ordered Sharif in 2011 be “removed to Somalia.”
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said they transferred Sharif into custody at a San Diego detention centre on July 15, 2011 after customs officers brought him there.
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Two months later, a judge ordered him returned to Somalia. ICE said Sharif waived his right to appeal.
However, on Nov. 23, Sharif was released from custody “due to a lack of likelihood of his removal in the reasonably foreseeable future,” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said.
Sharif missed an appointment two months later, in January 2012, with the U.S. department overseeing deportations, and any efforts to locate him were unsuccessful.
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Canadian documents obtained by Global News indicate the man who is now a terror suspect showed up in Canada that same year, as a Somali refugee who indicated the federal government was sponsoring him for one year.
Goodale’s office, however, said Sharif crossed into Canada at an official point of entry, claimed asylum and was granted refugee status later in 2012.
Ottawa ‘reflecting’ on asylum policy
Tuesday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government is “looking into” exactly what happened to allow Sharif, who was under a deportation order in the U.S., to claim asylum in Canada.
“We’re looking into the whole system and we’ll reflect on whether we need to do things differently in the future than the way they were done in 2012,” Trudeau said.
Goodale, however, was adamant the system applied at the border was, and remains, rigorous – despite echoing Trudeau’s pledge to “look into” the system.
“We’ll examine all of the facts of the matter, just to make sure that there were no untoward errors or problems committed at the time,” Goodale said Tuesday afternoon.
“That’s just normal, prudent common sense procedure to make sure that we are doing our job and doing it properly.”
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In an interview, Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel was hesitant to comment on whether Sharif’s story highlights any shortcomings in Canada’s asylum and refugee system.
“I want to know all the details of this case before we start commenting on whether or not there were system failures,” she said. “Clearly, this is something Canadians are concerned about.”
Sharif, 30, is charged with five counts of attempted murder, five counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, one count of criminal flight causing bodily harm and one count of possession of a weapon.
He’s accused of ramming a car into a police officer outside Commonwealth Stadium Saturday night before jumping out and stabbing the officer. Police said he fled and allege he later drove a U-Haul van through downtown Edmonton, deliberately striking four pedestrians.
-With files from Phil Heidenreich, Global News