Hannah Deloughery, left, of Romero House, a Toronto shelter for refugees, meets with Mohammed, a teenage boy from Syria who faces deportation to the United States. (Maureen Brosnahan/CBC)

Hannah Deloughery, left, of Romero House, a Toronto shelter for refugees, meets with Mohammed, a teenage boy from Syria who faces deportation to the United States.
Photo Credit: Maureen Brosnahan/CBC

Syrian teen faces deportation to United States

A 16-year-old Syrian boy who arrived at the Canadian border with the United States claiming refugee status last month, is facing deportation back to the U.S, even as the Liberal government has pledged to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees in Canada.

The boy who’s been identified only by his first name, Mohammed, to protect his identity was taken into custody by Canadian officials and placed in isolation for three weeks in a Toronto detention centre.

Last week, officials with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) ordered the boy deported. Under Canada’s third safe country agreement with the U.S., Ottawa no longer accepts refugees who come through the States unless they have relatives in Canada or claim asylum not at the border but at one of the immigration offices inside the country.

But his lawyers say the boy is an unaccompanied minor and should be allowed into Canada to claim refugee status.

Aviva Basman of the Refugee Law Office in Toronto called it “outrageous” that Mohammed was not only denied entry but was detained in isolation for three weeks.

“Everyone who’s involved in Mohammed’s case has found the way CBSA treated him quite shocking,” she told CBC News. “We’re talking about a 16-year-old Syrian boy who’s just trying to find protection.”

Mohammed has since been released from the centre and is being housed at Romero House, a Toronto shelter for refugees.

Mohammed says his family fled Syria for Egypt after the war began. But when Mohammed turned 16, his residency permit in Egypt expired. He faced being sent back to Syria and being conscripted into the military.

Fearing that, his parents flew with him to the United States and then arranged to get him to the Canadian border, Mohammed says. They believed Canada’s openness to accept Syrian refugees meant he would be safe here while they flew back to Egypt.

The family has cousins in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga.

Mohammed was scheduled to be deported on Feb. 18, but on Monday, border officials delayed that for a week. His lawyers are now appealing to the minister of immigration and refugees to allow him to stay and have his case heard by a refugee determination board. The minister, John McCallum, has yet to respond.

“This Liberal government is a very pro-refugee government,” said Mitchell Goldberg, president of the Canadian Association of Refugee lawyers. “I’m hopeful that the minister will intervene on his behalf.”

Meanwhile, Mohammed remains at Romero House.

He’s passing his time helping other recently arrived refugees from Syria settle into Canada. He says he hopes to remain in Canada, finish high school and study to be an engineer.

With files from CBC News

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3 comments on “Syrian teen faces deportation to United States
  1. anthony says:

    let him go back to the US. He have 52 states to chose and his mental health will not suffer. I would not like to see him here. the latest news about Syrian refugees already here are not doing well psychologically. Its hard to adjust in Canada and he will do no better if he lives here. As therefore, he would suffer from adjustment stress and anxiety.

  2. Sterling says:

    In general, a person is supposed to claim refugee status in the first safe country that they enter which in this case was the United States. Canada would need to determine that the boy is actually a minor (believe me having worked in Canadian refugee law you get 30-year olds from overseas claiming to be 14 so that their case is treated under the unaccompanied minor program which is less onerous than the adult refugee rules!). Plus Canada would need to examine whether the relatives in Toronto are actually related as claimed which is difficult due to the absence of documentation/birth certificates etc in some parts of the world. Its not as if the Canadian government can pick up the phone and speak to the Birth Registration Department of Syria and check this persons records.

  3. Marie Irwin says:

    This is b.s. Why would his parents accompany him here and then go back to Egypt? This story does not make sense at all!!