Nova Scotia

Emergency request made to stop deportation of Abdoul Abdi

The Federal Court will hear an emergency request Thursday in Halifax to stop the deportation of Abdoul Abdi, a 24-year-old former child refugee from Somalia.

Former child refugee could lose right to work and health care if deportation order issued

Abdoul Abdi, who was recently released from prison, is fighting for Canadian citizenship. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The Federal Court will hear an emergency request Thursday in Halifax to stop the deportation of Abdoul Abdi, a 24-year-old former child refugee from Somalia.

The request comes after the federal minister of public safety refused to pause a deportation hearing while the court hears a constitutional challenge to the minister's decision to deport.

Abdi's lawyer, Ben Perryman, said an order to be deported would be harmful to his client because it would automatically strip his permanent resident status.

"There will be no review of the complexities of his case or the constitutional arguments he's making," Perryman said Sunday. 

In Canada most of his life

Abdi, who was recently released after 4.5 years in prison 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 came to Nova Scotia as a refugee when he was six but was taken into foster care soon after and subsequently lived at more than two dozen foster homes.

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

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

Abdi's sister Fatouma Abdi told CBC News last month there's nothing back in Somalia for her brother, who doesn't speak the language or have family there.

Abdi's story has prompted Nova Scotia to review cases of children who are in the care of the province and don't have citizenship.

No job, no health care

One of the conditions of Abdi's release was that he had to gain employment. Perryman said Abdi recently got a job working on a research project that examines crossover youth who have contact with both the child welfare system and the criminal justice system.

But that is in jeopardy now because if the Immigration and Refugee Board proceeds with a deportation hearing and decides he should be deported, Abdi would lose the right to work and the right to health care, Perryman said. 

Abdoul Abdi's supporters want government officials to let him stay in the country he's spent much of his life in and overhaul how non-citizen children are dealt with. (Robert Guertin/CBC)

"So even though he might not be removed immediately, he won't have the ability to work or the ability to access health care in the short term, which is essential to his reintegration to Canada," he said.

Admissibility hearing

The lawyer said there is an admissibility hearing scheduled for March 7 in Toronto.

Admissibility hearings are held when the Canada Border Services Agency has reason to believe a person should not enter or remain in Canada. 

The hearing is held before the immigration division of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada where a member, known as the decision-maker, decides independently if a person is admissible to enter or stay in the country.

A spokesperson for the board told CBC News Abdi's admissibility hearing is based on an allegation that Abdi is inadmissible on grounds of "serious criminality," having been convicted of an offence that is either punishable by a maximum term of at least 10 years or an offence that has resulted in a term of imprisonment of more than six months.

"Mr. Abdi is represented by counsel, and is able to present his case or have counsel participate in the proceeding on his behalf. If the allegation is determined to be founded, Canada's immigration law requires that a deportation order be issued in the case of serious criminality," the board said.

Perryman said the situation has been stressful for Abdi. He said Abdi's constitutional challenge is still in the early phase and the court has yet to decided if or when there will be a full hearing.

"He's doing the things the correctional service is asking him to do and at the same time … the minister is seeking to remove his right to work and his right to health care before the federal court has even heard his case," said Perryman.


Anjuli Patil


Anjuli Patil is a reporter and occasional video journalist with CBC Nova Scotia's digital team.