Refugee advocates are launching a last-minute appeal for an Edmonton man facing deportation to Somalia this week, 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 in Nova Scotia, who held a protest Tuesday, said say 34-year-old Abdilahi Elmi fled Somalia as a child and was later taken into foster care in Ontario.
However, they say the Ontario government failed to fill out paperwork that would have granted him permanent residency.
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Elmi has a lengthy criminal record that includes assault charges, which is why he is facing deportation as a non-citizen.
Idowu Ohioze, Elmi’s lawyer based in Edmonton, Alta., has filed an application to stay. It’s going to be reviewed Thursday.
“We do not take issue with the Canadian government’s assessment of Mr. Elmi’s criminal record,” Ohioze said. “The position we take is an assessment of the risk.
“When we weigh the possibility that Mr. Elmi could re-offend in Canada, is that the Canadian government and the Canadian public will agree, the risk that Mr. Elmi faces in Somalia far outweighs the possibility of re-offending here.”
Activists in Nova Scotia say the federal government should review the case because Elmi’s circumstances are similar to those of Abdoul Abdi, who was allowed to stay in Canada last July after a federal court judge set aside a decision to refer Abdi’s case to a deportation hearing.
In a July 13 decision, Justice Ann Marie McDonald said 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 the 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.
As for Elmi, his supporters say he should also be granted a reprieve because he faces “certain death” in Somalia.
“Mr. Elmi, like the well-documented case of Mr. Abdoul Abdi, was given refugee status as a child and then taken into state care, which failed to apply for proper immigration documentation for him,” says a statement from Halifax activists El Jones and Stacey Gomez.
“Mr. Elmi left Somali as a child, has no family there and does not speak Somali.”
The statement says 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.
“Mr. Elmi’s case mirrors that of Mr. Abdoul Abdi, whose deportation was stayed by Minister Ralph Goodale and has resulted in the overhaul of child welfare laws in Nova Scotia,” the statement says.
“The potential situation for Abdilahi Elmi when he gets deported to Somalia is inhumane as the government of Canada is exposing Elmi to harm, risk of torture and cruel and unusual treatment.”
On June 26, the Canada Border Services Agency decided Elmi should be deported to Kismayo, Somalia this Wednesday.
The CBSA has said “the removal of convicted, repeat offenders is an enforcement priority.”
“He has committed extensive crimes within Canada and is considered a danger to the public,” spokeswoman Mylene Estrada-Del Rosario said in a statement.
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Abdoul Abdi’s sister, Fatuma Abdi, was at the protest in Nova Scotia.
“It’s painful to be back here a year later fighting the same neglect for another child failed by the child welfare system in Canada.”
By Monday afternoon, an online petition had posted more than 2,700 names. The change.org site includes a letter from Elmi in which he says alcohol has 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.”
Elmi’s lawyer said court will review the application to stay Thursday, with the possibility for Elmi to be deported Monday.
– With files from Global News’ Sarah Komadina