The detention of a teenage refugee claimant because he carried a false passport and didn’t immediately reveal his identity is “cruel and barbaric” punishment, his lawyer claims.
“I’m not aware of another case where a minor has been detained in such a manner,” lawyer Max Berger said about his 13-year- old client, Umer Hussain, who arrived from Pakistan on Jan. 28.
Umer, who is being held at the Celebrity Inn, an immigration detention centre on Airport Rd., with a 22-year-old friend, Nadeem Zafar, said Friday he was confused, frightened and wanted to be let go.
The two initially claimed to be brothers, but were put in custody by airport immigration officials who were suspicious of their motives in visiting Canada. Umer’s parents and brothers and sisters remain in Pakistan.
When a relative of Zafar’s posted their bonds, the two were released on Feb. 17, and told to reappear on March 7 for a hearing.
But on the advice of an immigration consultant, the two were advised not to give their real names until their hearing, Berger said.
It was that mistake that cost them their freedom, Berger said.
When Umer came to him to handle their refugee claim, Berger said he immediately told them to give their real names, which they did.
The two were, however, arrested on their hearing date on March 7 and haven’t been released since despite repeated attempts to secure their freedom through two Immigration and Refugee Board adjudicators.
This despite the willingness of another family friend to post $3,500 each for them, Berger said.
UMER HUSSAIN: Boy, 18, from Pakistan carried a false passport.
Documents now presented to the adjudicator confimr the identities of the two, he said.
The detention is unjust because the only two grounds for it are that the pair are a threat to the public or might not show up for their hearing, he added.
“If I had to run away, I would have run away before,” Umer said, adding that the only reason he didn’t reveal his real name was because he did what he been told by an elder.
“What did I know?” said Umer, who is making his claim on the fact that he belongs to the Ahmadi faith, a group that faces persecution in Pakistan.
“The boy is very frightened,” Berger said, adding the two are being punished because the adjudicator and immigration officials are wrongly “outraged” that they were travelling on false documents.
Immigration department spokesperson Kevin Sack disagreed that the pair were being punished, saying officials were satisfied the case had been treated fairly. “We’re not in the punishment business. We are in the business of upholding the law,” Sack said.
Max Berger is a native of Winnipeg, Manitoba and was educated at the University of Manitoba and York University. Mr. Berger is a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, Canada. He has represented immigration clients from all corners of the world and in every area of immigration law.
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