December 1. 2004 — Tuesday morning, Ahmad Nafaa was deported from Canada to the United States. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) turned Ahmad over to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS), who immediately locked him up in the Clinton County Jail in Northern New York. All of this occurred despite the week-long efforts of the Coalition Against the Deportation of Palestinian Refugees and allies, who had been working, since Ahmad was detained on November 23, to prevent his deportation. The night before Ahmad was deported, friends went to visit him in the Laval detention center, Ahmad was very afraid of what is awaiting him in the US and felt that his last hope for living a life in peace and dignity was being crushed in those few hours. Ahmad removed a map of Palestine from his necklace and gave it to a friend for fear of being harassed in the US by immigration officials or in the US jail.
At this moment, Ahmad is being transferred from the Clinton County Jail to the INS detention center near Buffalo, NY. The situation he faces in the US, in addition to the injustice of an arbitrary detention, is difficult and dangerous. It is unlikely that the US will not eventually deport him back to the 56-year-old Palestinian refugee camp of Ein El Helweh in Lebanon, back to a life of statelessness and a life void of all fundamental civil and human rights. It is crucial to recall that occurs against the background of the Canadian government’s continued support of Israel and the illegal occupation of Palestine.
Ahmad will probably be found ineligible to claim asylum as a refugee in the US. US immigration law imposes a one year time limit for the filing of a refugee claim, and the time starts running at the moment the claimant first enters the country. Because Ahmad first entered the US, on his way to Canada, in 2001, that time period has expired. He can apply for a ‘Withholding from Removal’, but the standards applied to such an application are much higher than for a refugee claim, and it does not confer the same status. The acceptance rates in the US for both types of claims are disturbingly low. Even if Ahmad is released from detention during the time that his claims are processed, he will not be eligible for a work permit for six months.
While Ahmad was being forced into this situation by CIC and the CBSA, the Minister of Immigration Canada, Judy Sgro, ignored a wide variety of efforts to convince her to stop Ahmad’s deportation. Several members of Parliament, including Bill Siksay (NDP), Meille Faille (Bloc), and Alexa McDonough (NDP), personally pressured the Minister to review Ahmad’s file and stay his deportation. On Monday morning, Bill Siksay asked the following question in Parliament: ‘Could the Prime Minister assure us that Canada will live up to its obligations under the UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness and, given his personal commitment to the protection of Palestinians, will he ensure that stateless Palestinian refugees are not deported from Canada?’ Over the past week, the Minister and several high-level bureaucrats in CIC received thousands of faxes, phone calls and emails explaining Ahmad’s situation and demanding a stay of deportation. Despite all of this, the Minister remained intransigent.
The Coalition organized four demonstrations in support of Ahmad, two in front of Immigration Canada’s Montreal office, one at the Laval detention center where Ahmad was being held, and one in front of the Ministry of Citizenship & Immigration in Ottawa. The Coalition’s allies in Toronto organized a demonstration at the riding offices of Minister Sgro.
Several major media outlets, including the CBC, Radio Canada, La Presse, Le Devoir, The Gazette and Global Television, provided extensive coverage of these demonstrations and Ahmad’s plight. Journalists were able to interview Ahmad over the weekend while he was in detention in Laval. These interviews appeared on television and in the print media. Still, Sgro, who was surely made aware of the extensive media coverage and public awareness regarding Ahmad, refused to act.
The Federal Court also failed to prevent this injustice. On Monday afternoon, Judge Beaudry rejected an application for a stay of deportation, which had been filed by Ahmad’s lawyer, Annick Legault. The judge, incredibly, found that Ahmad would not face OEirreparable harm’ if deported to the US. One wonders what reparations Judge Beaudry would therefore find adequate for the indignity and loss of liberty that Ahmad has already suffered during just his first 24 hours in the US. Judge Beaudry also denied the application on the grounds that Ahamd did not have OEclean hands’ because he had been living underground for over a year before being detained (he way, as they say, “illegal’). In essence, the judge refused the application because Ahmad had been forced underground in order to avoid deportation to the poverty and persecution that are daily life in the refugee camps of Lebanon. This despite the fact that the initial refusal of Ahmad’s refugee claim was clearly unjust. A clear indication of that is that fact that his own brother, who has exactly the same case, was granted refugee status in Canada and is allowed to stay simply because a different Immigration & Refugee Board member heard his case.
The Coalition is now organizing to arrange to pay a $10,000 (USD) bond so that Ahmad may be released from detention while he awaits his virtually guaranteed deportation back to Lebanon.
PLEASE CALL, FAX and EMAIL THE MINISTER OF IMMIGRATION
We ask you to write, call or email the Removal Officer in this case and the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, expressing your outrage and disgust at the failure of the government to prevent this gross injustice.
WHEN YOU CALL, DEMAND THAT Ahmad Nafaa’s humanitarian and compassionate grounds application, which was filed over 6 months ago, be accepted, so that he may return to Canada.
Agent d’execution de la loi-CBSA
1010 rue St-Antoine
Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada
CIC National Headquarters
365 Laurier, Jean Edmonds South Tower,
Fax: (613) 947-8319
Phone: (613) 954-1064 Minister@cic.gc.ca Sgro.J@parl.gc.ca
For more information, contact the Coalition Against the Deportation of Palestinian Refugees: