Montreal man at risk if deported to Pakistan, lawyer says

Dubai-born Sami Sheikh has never lived in Pakistan, but faces deportation there from Montreal, where he has lived since he was 12.

Sami Sheikh has lived in Montreal since he was 12

Sami Sheikh walks with his five-year-old sister in 2009. Sheikh and his two sisters were originally granted a stay, but now the Immigration Canada says that he must move to Pakistan. (CBC) (CBC)

The lawyer for a 24-year-old Montreal man set to be deported to Pakistan says sending Dubai-born Sami Sheikh to his parents' native country could put his life in danger.

Sami Sheikh's parents were denied refugee status in 2009 and are living in the United States.  At the time that his parents' application to remain in Canada was denied, Sheikh and his sisters were allowed to stay until all their appeals were exhausted.

The family's bid for refugee status was based on the father's claim that he and his family were at risk because of his past involvement in the PPP, the Pakistan People's Party.

The family said it feared threats from the PPP's political opponents, members of Pakistan's Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM.)

According to Sheikh's lawyer, Stewart Istvanffy, those political enemies have taken over the family home in Karachi, Pakistan.

'They've killed his grandfather, an uncle of his, a cousin of his.'—Stewart Istvanffy, Immigration Lawyer

"If they know another member of the family is back in Karachi, he could get killed. They've killed his grandfather, an uncle of his, a cousin of his," said Istvanffy.

On his application to stay in Canada, Sheikh states, "The two times that I did go [to Pakistan,] I was in severe danger. The first time I went the MQM gang had put a gun to my head, and told me to say my prayers, and the second time I went I was a bit grown up, so they tried to recruit me by handing me a gun."

Sheikh says he is also concerned about moving to a country where he has never lived. He says he does not read or write Urdu and that Montreal is all he knows.

He works full-time and has received offers to attend three different Canadian universities. 

'The MQM gang had put a gun to my head, and told me to say my prayers.'—Sami Sheikh

Despite Sheikh's pleas, federal immigration authorities denied his application to stay in Canada.

"I am not satisfied that, as a result of the risks feared, the applicant would suffer unusual and undeserved or disproportionate hardship if he were to apply for permanent residence outside Canada," stated Senior Immigration Officer L. Houle in a written report.

"Sami is now of adult age and he would likely be quite adaptable to re-establishing himself in Pakistan. He is a young able man," the officer concluded.

Sheikh's parents were deported because they had omitted to tell Canadian authorities that they had lived in Dubai for 20 years before moving to Canada.

Sheikh was born in Dubai but as a child born to foreign parents, he was not granted citizenship there.  He moved to Montreal with his family when he was 12 years old.

His older sister, Tayyaba, has Canadian permanent resident status because she is married to a Canadian.  Sheikh's youngest sister Sabrina lives with Tayyaba and her husband in Brampton, Ont.