The Canadian government has reversed its decision to deport a Syrian teen who was held in solitary confinement in an immigration detention center for three weeks after he attempted to enter the country through the US last month.
Earlier this week, news emerged that the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) was deporting Mohammed, a 16-year-old Syrian boy, who is using a pseudonym for safety reasons. He had fled to the US with his parents from Egypt, where they had been living since they left their home in Syria following the outbreak of the war. But Mohammed lost his permit to live in Egypt once he turned 16, and sought asylum in Canada, where he has friends and family.
But because Canada does not accept refugees who first come through the US, under the Safe Third Country Agreement, and CBSA ordered him deported. His lawyer, Aviva Basman, challenged that order, arguing that Mohammed should be let into the country because he’s an unaccompanied minor, and therefore an exception to the rules. Pending his deportation, Mohammed was released temporarily to Romero House, a refugee shelter in Toronto.
Basman says she got a call today from a removals officer at CBSA, who informed her that Mohammed’s deportation order had been lifted and that the federal immigration minister, John McCallum, had approved him for permanent residency based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
“I was hoping it would happen quickly,” Basman told VICE News. “We didn’t have a lot of time left. But we stayed hopeful and we are thrilled by this news.”
A spokesperson for Canada’s immigration ministry would not confirm the minister’s involvement in the case. Mohammed’s case drew harsh criticism from human rights advocates and refugee lawyers who said his treatment at the detention centre was inhumane, and out of step with the new government’s pledge to make Canada a more welcoming place for refugees.
Now, Mohammed will undergo further approvals such as health and background checks as his application moves forward.
“We’re so pleased that it has worked out and that Mohammed now has a sense of safety and security here. He’s incredibly relieved,” said Hannah Deloughery, an intern at Romero House, the Toronto refugee shelter where Mohammed has been staying since his release.
“He just wanted to know if it meant that he was finished the process and that he was going to be able to stay in Canada and I assured him that yes, it means he’s going to be able to stay in Canada,” she said. “He’s smiling now for the first time in a few days.”
Source : Vice News