In 2000, two children – a six-year-old and a nine-year-old – arrived with their aunt as refugees in Halifax from war-torn Somalia. Without having received adequate assistance to help them adjust to the predominantly English-speaking society, the two children were taken from their aunt by the government and put in foster care. Separated from his older sister, the six-year-old boy would later spend his youth moving between 31 different homes. He would be victim to the foster-care-to-prison pipeline and spend five years in jail for his convictions. His name is Abdoul Abdi. He is 24 years old and a former child refugee. The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) says Abdoul is illegal in this country.
On the CBSA’s deportation list are over 15,000 immigrants, like Abdoul, deemed “illegal.” Most of them even share stories similar to Abdoul’s – grief-stricken refugees fleeing their war-torn countries and seeking safer places for themselves and their families. Due to refugee quotas, language barriers and overall inaccessibility, some immigrants take the risk to travel to Canada through non-government channels. These undocumented immigrants are considered illegal by the CBSA and are then targeted to be deported back to their war-torn countries. In fact, immigrants and their children are the only people in Canada who can be jailed without being charged for criminal offenses. During Harper’s government, over 85,000 immigrants were detained without charge under indefinite conditions. How many Canadians can say that they are aware of this? In Abdoul’s circumstance, the Department of Community Services neglected to submit necessary paperwork for Abdoul to apply for Canadian citizenship back when he still held refugee status. Ultimately, due to his criminal charge, he became ineligible for citizenship. Abdoul now faces deportation from Canada – a country that originally promised him a better future – to Somalia, a country he has never lived in.
The refugee system, foster-case system, school system, prison system and legal system all consecutively failed Abdoul in protecting and caring for him. As Abdoul continues to move through various government processes, it becomes clearer how unjust his life has been. Not only was he ripped from his family at a young age, he was stripped of ever having a childhood. Like so many vulnerable black and brown youth who have been failed by the state, Abdoul’s case is characteristic of the other 15,000 immigrants who are being sought by the CBSA. As Indigenous activists have said in reference to Abdoul’s case, we must consider the morally corrupt act of deportation on stolen land. We cannot fail Abdoul again.
The Federal Court has agreed to hear Abdoul’s case at the end of May. Until then, campaigns by migrant justice activists have been called in his name asking Canadians to demand public officials stop his deportation.