Somalia deemed too dangerous to escort deportee

Somalia is such a dangerous place that Ottawa has had a tough time finding an airline willing to transport a Toronto man, who has been detained for deportation for more than five-and-a-half years.

At a tribunal hearing on Monday to argue for the man’s continued detention at the Lindsay jail, government counsel said no border officials could escort Abdirahman Warssama to Mogadishu because of the “extreme risks” to personal safety.

Three airlines — Jubba, Astro and Daallo — were unable to transport the 51-year-old due to “unreliability and unwillingness,” while African Express Airways required him to sign a consent form agreeing to co-operate in the removal — a request the man has refused because he fears for his life there.

“So it goes back to square one,” government co-counsel Denise Giuliani told Immigration and Refugee Board adjudicator Karina Henrique at Warssama’s detention review.

Monday’s hearing was prompted by a Federal Court order to overturn an earlier decision by the tribunal for the detainee’s continued detention. Specifically, Justice Sean Harrington instructed the government to detail all steps taken to explore the possibility of returning Warssama to Somalia.

“The record is completely inadequate as to whether or not there are alternate means to remove Mr. Warssama to Somalia, or if not, alternatives to detention, such as monitoring devices and restrictions imposed on his movements,” Harrington wrote in a decision in November.

“The burden is upon the (public safety) minister to justify the continued detention . . . there comes a point in time in which time itself becomes overwhelming, requiring the parties, and the Immigration Division (of the refugee board), to think outside the box.”

A recent Star investigation found taxpayers spent $57.3 million on immigration detention in 2014, when almost 6,000 men and 1,746 women were detained by Canada Border Services Agency. Although most were held for 23 days on average, 58, including Warssama, had been held at least one year.

Although Warssama’s asylum claim was denied in 1989, the same year he arrived here, he was allowed to stay in Canada on humanitarian grounds — partially due to his diagnosis with post-traumatic stress disorder. However, he kept moving around and never obtained his permanent residence status.

In 2005, he was charged with obstructing a police officer, simple possession of marijuana, uttering threats and failure to attend court after missing a hearing date, according to court documents. He was given a suspended sentence and 18 months’ probation.

In 2009, he was arrested for criminal harassment and assault, and sentenced to one day in jail and given 87 days pre-sentence custody credit. Since Warssama isn’t a permanent resident or a citizen, his criminality has made him inadmissible to Canada.

Government co-counsel Kirsten Dapat argued Warssama poses a “high, elevated flight risk” and would be unlikely to appear for removal if released from jail because of his declared refusal to return to Somalia and the transient life he previously lived.

“It is very clear from his history that he can and will fall off the radar,” said Dapat, adding Warssama is the “author” of his lengthy detention by refusing to sign the consent form. She also said Canada has successfully deported two people to Somalia and four removals are pending for January.

On its website, the government of Canada urges Canadians to “avoid all travel” to Somalia. “The security situation in Somalia is extremely volatile and the threat of domestic terrorism is high, particularly in south-central Somalia and in the capital, Mogadishu,” the advisory says.

Warssama’s detention review has been adjourned until Wednesday.

Source: Toronto Star

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