Nova Scotia

Abdoul Abdi, refugee at risk of being deported, moved to detention centre in Toronto

The 24-year-old refugee from Somalia is set to have a detention review hearing on Monday and a deportation hearing in the next month.

Abdi set to have detention review hearing Monday and deportation hearing in the next month

Supporters of Abdi demonstrated in Lower Sackville, N.S., on Tuesday, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was holding a town hall meeting. (Mark Crosby/CBC)

A Somali refugee at risk of being deported has been moved to an immigration detention centre in Toronto, according to his lawyer.

Abdoul Abdi, 24, was being held in segregation by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) following his release from a New Brunswick prison last Thursday.

Abdi, who just completed a four-year sentence for crimes including aggravated assault, is at risk of being deported because he is not a Canadian citizen, despite living in the country most of his life.

"He's not doing very well," said Abdi's lawyer, Benjamin Perryman. "He's happy to be out of segregation. He's of course nervous and scared of the upcoming deportation proceedings."

Benjamin Perryman is Abdoul Abdi's lawyer. (Robert Short/CBC)

Abdi came to Nova Scotia as a refugee when he was six years old but was taken into foster care soon after and subsequently lived at more than two dozen foster homes.

It was the responsibility of the province's Department of Community Services to make an application for his citizenship, but that never happened. 

Abdi came to Canada as a refugee when he was six. (Submitted by Benjamin Perryman)

His lawyer said before the CBSA intervened, correctional services had deemed him safe to release, and had planned to have him stay at a halfway house in Toronto.

"Moving him there makes him closer to where he needs to be should border services and the Immigration and Refugee Board agree to his release," Perryman said.

This photo of Abdoul Abdi and his daughter Farrah was taken before he began his prison sentence. (Submitted by Fatouma Abdi)

Province lacks policy for citizenship application

Nova Scotia has no policy to ensure that immigrant children in foster care are able to apply for and receive citizenship, Perryman said.

"From a compassionate perspective, you cannot look at the deplorable treatment Mr. Abdi received while he was a child in care and the failure to get citizenship and think it's morally justified to deport him," Perryman said. 

A woman in a black jacket faces right as she speaks to the camera.
Julie Chamagne is the executive director of the Halifax Refugee Clinic. (Robert Short/CBC)

Cases like Abdi's aren't unique, according to Julie Chamagne, executive director of the Halifax Refugee Clinic. 

Chamagne said in some cases, the person thinks they're a Canadian citizen, and doesn't find out they aren't until they're charged with a crime.

Deportations not rare, says advocate

Chamagne said despite spending most of his life in Canada, Abdi's life is now at risk if he is sent back to Somalia.

"Abdoul Abdi is going to be deported to a country where Canada issues the starkest of travel advisory warnings, and Canada won't even send its own citizens," Chamagne said.

Abdoul Abdi is going to be deported to a country where Canada . . . won't even send its own citizens.Julie Chamagne, executive director of the Halifax Refugee Clinic

"That to me is a terrible contrast. He's someone who should be, and for all intents and purposes is, a Canadian citizen."

But Canada has a history of deporting people like Abdi, even when the United Nations found it would be in violation of international law, according to his lawyer.

"International law is clear that deporting somebody like Mr. Abdi in these circumstances would be a violation of the law," he said.

Abdi is set to have a detention review hearing on Monday, and a deportation hearing in the next three to four weeks, according to his lawyer.

In the meantime, Perryman is challenging the deportation order in federal court, and said it's up to the Canadian government to stop it.​

"[The federal government] didn't look at the country conditions in Somalia, they did not look at the experience of Mr. Abdi in care and they did not look at the reason why he did not become a Canadian citizen," he said.


Marina von Stackelberg is a senior reporter at CBC's Parliamentary Bureau in Ottawa. She previously worked as a reporter and host in Winnipeg, with earlier stints in Halifax and Sudbury. Her stories regularly appear across the country on CBC Radio and CBC News Network. Connect with her by email at or on social media @CBCMarina.