Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Should Somalia's anarchy rule out deportation?

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When a Federal Court judge ordered Yassin Ibrahim's removal from Headingley jail back to Somalia, he was supposed to be taken to the safer, southern city of Kismaayo where he had a cousin.

That didn't happen, said Ibrahim, reached by cellphone in Kenya where he's alive and well after a month-long ordeal that got off to a degrading start.

"They stripped me down and put a diaper on me." Manitoba Corrections officials wouldn't let the man deemed a danger to the public take the $200 he had saved, a change of clothes, documents or any of his personal effects. On March 24, they shackled Ibrahim and put him on a small jet that picked up one other Somali being removed from Toronto. Ibrahim said Canada Border Services Agency officials placed a hood over his head for the 21-hour flight.

"It was very hard to breathe."

The deportees were flown by way of St. John's, N.L., to the Czech Republic, to Cairo and then to Djibouti in northern Somalia, Ibrahim said. From Djibouti, they were taken by local militia and flown by small plane to a bush airstrip in Puntland north of Somalia-- nowhere near Kismaayo, Ibrahim said.

He was left there, and had to lie about which tribe he belonged to in order to stay safe. He said he was a target for local "authorities" who are accustomed to the return of Somalis removed from Europe and North America.

"If you're coming from Canada or America, they think you have money," Yassin said. "I had no money. No family."

Ibrahim said he walked for close to a month avoiding the bandits and militia that patrol Somalia's roads to find a place to cross into Kenya.

"I am alive by the grace of God today," he said.

A spokeswoman for the Canada Border Services Agency said Ibrahim was removed and taken to Kismaayo as the court ordered. She declined further comment.

Being deported to Somalia can be a death sentence, the Canadian Council for Refugees said.

"The United Nations High Commission on Refugees is calling for people not to be sent back to Somalia," said Janet Dench, executive director of the council.

Four years ago, the refugee advocacy group asked the Canadian government to stop removing people to the political and humanitarian crisis that is Somalia. There's been no central government since 1991, no functioning judiciary, police force or army and no social or economic infrastructure. Fighting between rival warlords and the inability to deal with famine and disease has led to the death of more than a million people, the council said.

Canada's Foreign Affairs department says that, in Somalia, "the rule of law is virtually non-existent." "If we're deporting people to (places where there is) torture and killing... then our own government immigration bureaucracy is complicit in these tortures and arbitrary killings," said human rights lawyer David Matas.

The Canadian government continues to send people to Somalia because no one ever hears what happens to the removed refugees and complains, Dench said.

"There's no media to speak of there, so from a government point of view, they don't get much feedback." Out of sight, out of mind.

Ibrahim's removal order was based on a "public danger opinion" that Ibrahim was never able to defend himself on because his documents were kept away from him in jail. Provincial corrections officials deemed the reams of paper could be used by Ibrahim as a weapon.

Matas, his lawyer, is challenging the removal order.

"He had no idea what was going on at the time," said Matas. "He was not given a chance to keep the documents in his cell, so he submitted nothing."

When Matas requested the documents to defend Ibrahim at his deportation hearing, they could not be found.

The lawyer representing the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, said the risk Ibrahim posed to society outweighed the risk he faced being returned to Somalia.

"He's hit people with hammers, stabbed people numerous times... at his sentencing he professed he wanted to change... while in custody he made threats against the staff," said Nalini Reddy.

In June, Matas asked the federal court to set aside the "danger opinion" which could open the door to Ibrahim's return.

Ibrahim said he's sorry and wants to come back to Canada and deal with his charges.

"I wish I was a Canadian citizen. I wish I never made the bad choice I made."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 21, 2008 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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