Take a stand on principles

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Today human rights activists in Canada are crying over the fate of yet another stateless victim, Ahmed Abdel-Majeed, and his detention and deportation to the US. Yesterday it was someone else and tomorrow there will be a new face ending up in prison either in the US or somewhere else. Again, there will be protests, demands, visits to the immigration minister’s office and sit-ins before the immigration offices. Did it work before? Will these tactics work in the future?

Of course, nothing or very little has worked in the past and, in my opinion, fruitless will remain all such misdirected attempts in the future. The process of detentions and deportations will nevertheless continue until the system is changed – a system that aggravates misery rather than alleviates pain of those who seek protection in Canada.

For persons living under the threat of deportation, the agony of going through a new story of detention and deportation each day is no less than the agony of the victims of such inhuman treatment itself. It’s like a person on death row who dies every day just by watching yet another fellow prisoner hanged by the guardians of law before him.

In the end it is all one needle, one shot, one life, and it’s gone. But it’s the mental torture before that one shot that counts and cripples. It’s the attempt to avoid such pain that many people are in Canada seeking protection – in other words testing the tall claims of justice and human rights. What multiplies their pain, however, is the so obvious double standards of the Immigration and Refugee Board.

Abdel-Majeed, a stateless Palestinian refugee, is the latest victim who was detained and deported by Immigration Canada to the U.S. where he ended up in prison for an indefinite period of incarceration. Those who are not associated with refugees do not know the magnitude of injustice in Canada. Even most of the immigration officials do not know because they perform their duty and carry out deportation orders.

The problem lies deep in the heart of the immigration department with its Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). The problem is not that Abdel-Majeed could not prove himself a deserving person for protection in this land of the free. The problem is that the judges at the IRB could not judge between the truth of Abdel-Majeed and the successful lies told by many others who also crossed the same border into Canada.

Let us compare Abdel-Majeed’s case with just one case out of the thousands of others who came from the US in order to obtain asylum here in Canada. Giving this example will show Canadians, particularly those in the immigration department, and how the most deserving persons get deported just for their inability to fake and the liars enjoying human rights in Canada.

The Immigration Department web site maintained by the Government of Canada says under the title: "Cases Not Sent to the IRB": "Persons who arrived in Canada, directly or indirectly, from a country other than their country of nationality or former habitual residence and designated by the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act regulations."

We cannot say that this rule was applicable to Abdel-Majeed and not to hundreds of other refugees coming from the US. Some of these have been accepted on the table as if the above rule does not exist at all. "Table acceptance" is a term used for those cases in which the IRB judge does not hesitate in accepting asylum application right away in the court.

It shows that the above rule was not in play in the case of Abdel-Majeed at all. The only difference between his case and the case that this autor knows personally to be fake is that Abdel-Majeed was not a con man who could arrange a fake passport and other IDs with a slight change in his name before crossing the border into Canada.

Abdel-Majeed could not craft a fake story of conversion to the Shia’ sect of Islam. He could not produce even a computer generated letterhead with a certificate from Shia Imam Bargah, about his conversion to Shia Islam. Most importantly, Abdel- Majeed did not know that even his plain lies to IRB will not be verified. The result is that the other person, who faked everything from A to Z, is accepted and Abdel – Majeed is back in the US prison.

It shows that the system is not the matter of merit but a competition over who can fool the IRB better than the other and who can produce more presentable paper work that will convince IRB judges that he deserves protection.

Keeping applicants for refugee status from the rest of the world aside, one can at least say with 100 percent confidence that there is no difference in the circumstances of the thousands of refugees who crossed into Canada from the US, regardless of their stories.

Everyone was an illegal immigrant and fled to Canada to avoid detention and deportation by the INS. In the absence of clearly defined standards in Canada or their lack of application, it has become a competition of stories at the IRB in which a deserving, stateless person like Abdel-Majeed loses because the judge looked at his story rather than the single undeniable reality that as a stateless person, he has nowhere to go.

No matter how the government of Canada may exonerate itself, it boils down to the fact that a grand injustice is underway at the IRB where a judge’s discretion plays havoc on the one hand and absence of standards has worsened the situation on the other. It seems that in some cases the IRB’s function has been reduced to sanctifying government’s classification of who is suitable for Canada and who is not.

A decision obtained through the IRB is good enough to silence human rights activists and UN agencies by arguing that the Canadian government followed the due process of law and judged applications for asylum on the basis of merit. The IRB becomes a good smokescreen in cases where the objective is to show that a government agency did not act on its own but rather carried out a court’s decision.

Human rights and other activists need to relinquish the tactic of approaching the government on case by case basis. Instead they should take a stand on principles. These cases would support their stand on principles and enable them to garner Canada-wide and international support for bringing an end to:

1. deportations of stateless persons such as those from the occupied Arab lands;

2. deportations to areas which are UN declared war zones and where there is no stable government, like Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, etc.;

3. deportations of individuals who are on the run from friendly dictators, such as General Musharraf of Pakistan, and un-friendly dictators, such as Bashar Assad of Syria;

4. the double standards of the IRB, such as its deporting some who came from the US and accepting others also from the US, or deporting one Shia back to Pakistan and granting another asylum to another simply because the former could not craft a convincing story or he was not fortunate enough to face the judge with a 99 percent acceptance record;

5. the acceptance of evidence that is so obviously forged that it does not even need to go back to the source for verification; and also

6. come up with a simple mechanism for revisiting the accepted cases and find out, for example, how a women, who was granted asylum just because she was on the run from her husband, has actually sponsored the same husband after her acceptance; or why home countries were the first countries visited soon after obtaining a Canadian passport when they stated in their initial application that they could not imagine going back to these countries for fear of persecution.

Without conducting similar studies into all aspects of a refugee’s life – from legal aide assistance to social welfare grants – before and after acceptance of the thousands of refugees into Canada- the Canadian government may well be swelling its population with many con-men. However, this would remain a feat achieved at the cost of injustice to hundreds of deserving individuals who face a Maher Arar or Abdel-Majeed like fate – ie. imprisonment and torture – with the active participation of Canada in their never ending plight.

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