'We are so very happy': Family celebrates after father's deportation delayed

An Edmonton man celebrated with his family and dozens of community supporters after learning he was not going to be deported to Kenya on Monday.

Yussuf Madey Mahamed has been granted one year to stay in the country

Yussuf Madey Mahamed sits with his wife, Halima Ibrahim Ali, and their youngest children, Zainab and Ahmednur, at the Ogaden Somali Community of Alberta Residents office on Monday afternoon. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

An Edmonton man celebrated with his family and dozens of community supporters after learning he was not going to be deported to Kenya on Monday.

Yussuf Madey Mahamed may now stay in Canada for a year while he awaits a decision on his future.

Mahamed fled war in his native Somalia in 1994 and spent nearly 20 years living at the Ifo refugee camp in Kenya, where he met his wife, Halima Ibrahim Ali. They have four children: Aisho, 12, Anas, 11, Ahmednur, 4, and Zainab, 2.

Ali has been in Edmonton since 2006 and has since become a Canadian citizen, but Mahamed — who came to Canada in 2013 with a false passport — has been unable to obtain refugee status.

His flight leaving Edmonton was to depart early Monday night.

His red suitcase was packed and he was getting ready to go to the airport from the Ogaden Somali Community of Alberta Residents (OSCAR) office in McCauley when the phone rang at about 1:30 p.m.

Two calls — the first from MP Amarjeet Sohi's Edmonton office and the second from the Canada Border Services Agency — confirmed that Mahamed's deportation was delayed.

The scene at the office, where the family and dozens of community members were gathered, was euphoric, OSCAR executive director Ahmed Abdulkadir told CBC News.

"People are crying right now, kissing each other … it is unbelievable what is happening here," Abdulkadir said.

Sitting with their children at the office, the two youngest bouncing on their laps, the parents thanked the Canadian government and members of the OSCAR community for rallying behind them.

"We are so very happy," Ali said.

Abdulkadir said Mahamed may now stay in Canada for a year, which will allow time for him to verify his identity with authorities and await a decision on his sponsorship application. His wife has applied to sponsor him to become a permanent resident.

Community rallies behind family

The family and community members met with staff at MP Amarjeet Sohi's Edmonton constituency office on Monday morning and appealed to Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen to put a hold on the deportation order.

A petition addressed to Hussen drew more than 1,100 signatures.

A staff member at Sohi's office declined an interview Monday but said the office did everything it could to help with the file, and notified the family with news.

CBC requested comment Monday from Canada Border Services Agency and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. Both requests were acknowledged but responses were not received by the end of the day.

False passport raised identity questions

Mahamed used a false passport with the name of Farah Muhamed Aballahi to travel to Canada in 2013.

Using false documents is a common strategy for people seeking refugee status, but it raised questions about his identity with Canadian authorities.

"There was no other avenue that I could have done it, other than the illegal way, in order to meet my family and my loved ones," Mahamed said through a translator on Sunday.

His lawyer, Nalini Reddy, who recently took over his case, said Mahamed exhausted the standard legal remedies and his deportation could only be prevented by something "truly exceptional."

Father feared for his safety in Kenya

Through a translator, Mahamed said on Sunday that he was emotionally disturbed by thoughts of leaving his family and facing a dangerous future in Kenya.

He feared the Kenyan government would throw him in jail for having illegal documents and said stress about his status was affecting his health — particularly his blood pressure.

His wife said she was scared about supporting four children on her own. Eldest daughter Aisho wiped away tears when she spoke of being away from her father.

Aisho Mahamed, 12, speaks to CBC News after learning that her father, Yussuf Madey Mahamed, would not be leaving the country on Monday. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

Aisho was all smiles on Monday afternoon and said she was excited and happy to hear the news.

The family celebrated with a dinner at the OSCAR office Monday night.

With files from Zoe Todd