16-year-old Syrian boy awaits decision on deportation
Fears the boy could make it back to Syria
A 16-year-old Syrian boy has taken refuge at a shelter in Toronto after Canadian authorities said they would deport him to the U.S.
The boy arrived at the Canadian border asking for refugee protection in early January. Since then, Canadian officials have issued a deportation order. The boy is challenging the order, and is now at Romero House while the legal battle continues.
His family lives in Egypt. The father flew with the boy to New York, and then returned to Egypt, after arranging for him to be driven to the Canada-U.S. border. Canadian officials took the boy into custody at the border in Fort Erie.
In Toronto, he spent three weeks in solitary confinement.
Sam Ebid, a Toronto-Syrian businessman and a friend of the boy's father, said the boy was looking forward to attending school when he heard about the deportation order. The teenager is very upset.
"'Don't think about being removed. Always think positive.' This is what I try to tell him, but I don't know," said Ebid.
He said the 16-year-old will break down crying.
"Sometimes he feels older than his age," said Ebid. "But when he's worried and crying, you feel he's a kid, 10 years old. A child. He cried several times in front of us even when he was in detention."
The boy's father asks why he sees Prime Minister Justin Trudeau handing out clothes to some Syrian newcomers, while his son is being kicked out of the country.
"I don't have any answer for him," said Ebid.
'A very real concern'
Lawyer Aviva Basman is handling the boy's case on behalf of a Refugee Law Office of Legal Aid Ontario.
She said the case highlights a gap between what the Liberal government is saying versus what the Canada Border Services agents are doing.
"We believe the treatment of this boy is so surprising that perhaps what is going on is that Canadian officials on the ground are operating under the old culture, under the old government," Basman said, adding that she believes that once the current government becomes aware of the situation that it will intervene.
Basman says the unaccompanied teenager and refugee claimant was put in a detention centre for three weeks
"A 16-year-old Syrian kid put in isolation for three weeks — it is a shocking circumstance." she said.
She has numerous concerns about deporting the boy. The immediate plan is to send him to a youth homeless shelter in the U.S., where he would go through the refugee asylum process, where he would face the possibility of being deported to Egypt.
But in Egypt, his family has no residency status anymore, so the threat is that he would be sent from Egypt back to Syria, which she said is a "very real concern."
In Syria, the lawyer fears he would either be conscripted to the military or recruited by ISIS.