Andrew Duffy, Ottawa Citizen, Dec. 15, 2010
A 25-year-old street gang member, who came to Ottawa from Somalia at the age of nine, has been deported to that country in an operation praised by Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.
But the father of Omar Ahmed, a former Ridgemont High School student, is furious at the treatment of his son.
Abdi Farah told the Citizen that his son was dropped last week in the lawless Somali capital, Mogadishu, despite assurances he says he was given from Canadian officials that he would be flown to Bosaso, a city in the more stable state of Puntland.
A spokesman for the Canada Border Services Agency would neither confirm nor deny the story.
“I am unable to confirm specifically where he was returned to,” Chris Kealey said.
Ahmed had been held by federal immigration as a danger to Canadians since April 1. He agreed to be deported in order to end his indefinite detention.
According to his father, Ahmed waived his legal appeals based on the government’s assurance he would be returned to Bosaso.
The CBSA’s Kealey said privacy concerns prevent him from revealing details of the government’s dealings with Ahmed.
“But what I can say,” he said, “is that that is inconsistent with the information provided to both him and his father.”
Ahmed has admitted being a member of a notorious Ottawa street gang, the Ledbury Banff Crips. He was known on the street as “Ghost.”
Ahmed has been convicted of a series of crimes, including possession of crack cocaine for the purpose of trafficking, assault, mischief and uttering threats.
According to an Ottawa police report, the LBC gang uses guns and other weapons to aggressively defend its turf for cocaine trafficking.
Farah said that when his son called him from the Mogadishu airport in a panic, he arranged for a cousin to find him. The two men then walked for three days — about 150 kilometres — before securing a ride to the city of Galkayo, in southern Puntland.
“I am so mad: They (Canadian officials) promised me he would be safe,” said Farah, who fled the repressive Somali regime of president Siad Barre in 1986 and claimed refugee status in Canada.
He later brought his family, including his two young sons, to Ottawa from a refugee camp in Kenya.
Farah was not opposed to his son’s deportation — he thought it might give him the chance to start over — but he’s appalled at the government’s handling of his return.
“They don’t know what they’re doing,” he said. “Imagine: Mogadishu is the worst place on Earth; it’s like Afghanistan. That boy has no experience.”
Somalia’s United Nations-backed government is now battling the Islamist group, al-Shabbab, for control of Mogadishu. The al-Qaeda linked group already controls much of southern and central Somalia.
In a news release, Vic Toews and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney congratulated the CBSA for its “successful removal” of Ahmed, who had been one of 11 Somalia-born criminals awaiting deportation from Canada.
“Removing dangerous offenders not only protects the safety of Canadians, but the integrity of the immigration system,” Toews said. “We do not tolerate those who come to this country and commit serious crimes.”
Canadian border agents flew with Ahmed to Nairobi, Kenya, where he was turned over to private security personnel for the flight to Somalia.
Farah said Ahmed was told he would be taken to Mogadishu, then board an internal flight to Bosaso. In Mogadishu, however, he discovered there was no such flight.
“He was in a very critical condition,” Farah said. “They just left him in the airport.”
Farah said he has spoken with his son five times since he returned to Somalia. He’s now living with relatives in Galkayo, an area recently scarred by inter-clan violence.
“He’s OK, he’s a little bit scared,” said Farah.
Another Ottawa man, Somaliborn Abadir Ali, is also awaiting deportation to the same country.
Ali, 27, has been held in the by immigration authorities for the past two-and-a-half years. Last year, the government declared Ali a threat to Canadians because of five adult criminal convictions, two of which involved violent assaults.