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(en) Canada, Montreal visit to Immigration Minister's office for Nesiredin Ali Ebrahim

From Mick <mickblack47@yahoo.com>
Date Tue, 8 Oct 2002 16:08:36 -0400 (EDT)


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> From: No One Is Illegal! <nooneisillegal@ziplip.com>
Delegation visits Immigration Minister's Office in Montreal to demand
action for Nesiredin Ali Ebrahim

Special Senior Assistant from CIC reveals information about Algeria


MONTREAL, October 5, 2002 -- A delegation from the Montreal "No One is
Illegal" campaign visited the constituency office of Immigration Minister
Denis Coderre on Friday afternoon, demanding concrete action regarding the
urgent case of Nesiredin Ali Ebrahim, an asylum seeker facing imminent
deportation to Ethiopia from the United States.

Mr. Ebrahim is currently detained by the Immigration and Naturalization
Service (INS) in the US, and American authorities have already attempted
to deport him back to Ethiopia once (Mr. Ebrahim avoided deportation
because he was so upset on the plane that the pilot refused to take off
while he remained on board). Importantly, Mr. Ebrahim is in the process of
being sponsored as a refugee to Canada (on the initiative of the Ontario
Coalition Against Poverty in Toronto). He left Ethiopia to escape
imprisonment and torture, and fears for his life if returned.

US officials have indicated that they fully intend to deport Mr. Ebrahim
unless they are approached "by the highest levels of the Canadian
government." Today, in support of the efforts of Nesiredin Ali Ebrahim,
and the work of his allies including OCAP, ten members of the Montreal "No
One is Illegal" campaign crowded into two cars to make the drive to Denis
Coderre's constituency office in Montreal Nord. The delegation carried a
letter for Mr. Coderre -- in English and French -- as well as a
backgrounder about Mr. Ebrahim, and the risks he faces in Ethiopia [both
texts are included below].

Our delegation entered the office located in a small suburban plaza in the
early afternoon, and asked the two secretaries, as well as a third
official, to talk to Mr. Coderre. He wasn't in town, and was apparently on
"a media tour" of Quebec, spending the day in Chicoutimi with his cell
phone off. For about 45 minutes, we were given all sorts of tenuous
excuses about why we couldn't talk to Mr. Coderre, or even one of his
senior assistants. However, our letter and backgrounder was faxed to
Coderre's Ottawa office to be examined by an official there (someone named
"Maurice", whose last name office officials refused to give).

The staff expected us to leave, but we insisted on more than just having
our letter passed on, arguing alternately in English and French, and even
attempting Italian with one assistant in particular. Eventually, a senior
official came out from the back, and with some exasperation, invited us
all into the conference room.

For about an hour, we sat, argued and explained the situation to "Sylvia"
(the same assistant who a previous Montreal delegation met some months ago
regarding the case of Brendalyn McDonald -- who ended up winning permanent
resident status in Canada). Sylvia first expressed skepticism about Mr.
Ebrahim's case, and then doubts about what the Minister could do. At one
point, she insisted that she "only deals with Montreal Nord files." We
insisted that she make the appropriate calls, and bring the case directly
to the attention of the Minister for immediate action. She said she'd
phone officials in Ottawa and Toronto, and get back to us. We agreed to a
timeline -- one hour -- for her to make the calls, and eventually left the
office.

While we waited for an hour in a nearby restaurant, we telephoned local
community media about the case, doing two radio interviews (and prompting
the radio journalists to contact Coderre's office themselves). We also
used a cell phone to contact Minister Coderre's Ottawa office, asking to
talk to the mysterious "Maurice", and also providing details about Mr.
Ebrahim's case to the telephone receptionist.

The receptionist in Ottawa said that Maurice (whose last name was revealed
to be "Rioux") was busy in a meeting. After a long wait -- when she
apparently consulted some officials -- she asked if Mr. Ebrahim was a
Canadian citizen. We explained that the entire point was that Mr. Ebrahim
was trying to get status in Canada, but could not very well do so if he
was deported by American authorities to Ethiopia. The secretary said she
"could only help Canadians", but would pass on our info.

We eventually returned to Coderre's Montreal office from the nearby
restaurant. Coderre's constituency assistant, Sylvia, said emphatically
that we were "barking up the wrong Ministry," and urged us to contact
Foreign Affairs in the matter. We told her that others would certainly do
that, but that Minister Coderre, as a senior minister, could make a
difference in Mr. Ebrahim's case. Still, Sylvia (who consistently refused
to provide her full name) said that, "Mr. Coderre will not be calling the
INS because the file has not gone thru the IRB (Immigration and Refugee
Board)." Again, with some frustration, and at times anger, we explained
that Mr. Ebrahim will never get to the IRB if he's deported back to
Ethiopia -- which could happen any day -- and one way to ensure that he
gets to the IRB of Canada is to make sure Minister Coderre makes a call to
the INS.

We were soon joined by another man outside the office -- we were never
actually allowed back into the office, which was now officially "closed".
The man turned out to be Raymond Lussier, a "Senior Special Assistant" in
the office of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration (CIC). He claims
to have driven from Ottawa to Montreal just to meet with us. He stated
several times that as a result of our visit, there were "three people
working on [Mr. Ebrahim's] case right now in Ottawa". We tried to push for
direct contact with the Minister, but Lussier stated several times that
the Minister would not intervene in an individual case, because that was
"unfair".

At one point, without prompting on our part, Lussier referred to "1000
Algerians" and mentioned that Coderre could not intervene in each case.
The Algerian reference immediately interested our No One is Illegal crew,
who have been working with non-status Algerians in Montreal to fight
deportations. We asked more questions, especially about why the Ministry
of Citizenship and Immigration lifted the moratorium on deportations to
Algeria.

Lussier was indignant at our questions, and mentioned how he had recently
come back from a meeting in Algiers, and in his view there was "no danger
for anyone." He even mentioned that he had stayed at the Hilton Hotel, and
even left his hotel in a cab to buy a razor, "without incident". (A
Foreign Affairs travel advisory -- released just days before CIC lifted
the moratorium on deportations to Algeria -- urges Canadian tourists to
postpone their visits, and if they must visit, limit their stay to certain
select hotels in Algiers.) Lussier was asked if he spoke any Arabic or
Berber, and he embarassingly admitted he couldn't. At one point, when one
person asked for the names of the actual CIC officials dealing directly
with the Algeria issue, he replied, "That's none of your fucking
business."

While our delegation was not able to talk directly with Minister Coderre
-- either in person on by phone -- we felt our visit made a difference in
stressing the urgency of Mr. Ebrahim's case to officials that could prompt
the Minister to intervene. At least, it should help prod CIC to be more
pro-active in conveying to the INS in the US that Mr. Ebrahim should be
allowed to enter Canada.

We also gained some valuable info about some of the officials working on
the Algeria file. As one member of the No One is Illegal crew said to
Lussier, "If we have to, we'll visit this office 1000 times for every
single Algerian threatened with deportation."

Before leaving, the No One is Illegal delegation taped a poster -- a photo
of two non-status Algerian girls threatened with deportation, with the
caption reading, "Our country is here" -- to the office door window, and
left another copy on the windshield of Raymond Lussier's SUV.


More info about Nesiredin Ali Ebrahim's case is included below.

For more info about the "Stop the Deportations" campaign organized with
Montreal's Action Committee of Non-Status Algerians, contact "No One is
Illegal" at nooneisillegal@ziplip.com.

Denis Coderre's Montreal office number is 514-323-1212, and his e-mail is
Coderd1@parl.gc.ca. His Ottawa office number is 613-995-6108 and e-mail is
Coderd@parl.gc.ca.

Raymond Lussier, the Senior Special Assistant in the Office of the
Minister of Citizenship and Immigration can be reached at either
613-954-1064 or raymond.lussier@cic.gc.ca.
<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>

LETTER TO DENIS CODERRE FROM NO ONE IS ILLEGAL (MONTREAL)

Denis Coderre
Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
4975 Charleroi Street
Montreal North, Quebec
H1G 2Z2

Dear Hon. Minister,

We are writing you this letter to ask you with great urgency to intervene
in the case of Nesiredin Ali Ebrahim (INS # 70673055).

Mr. Ebrahim is an asylum-seeker who fled to the United States to escape
severe political harassment -- including imprisonment and torture -- in
Ethiopia, his country of origin. He has been detained by the INS in a
Florida detention facility for over two years.(Please see the attached
backgrounder for more details on Mr. Ebrahim.)

On September 11th of this year, the INS attempted to deport Mr. Ebrahim,
even though they were perfectly aware of the fact that five Canadian
citizens had already begun the process of sponsoring him to enter Canada
under a "group of five" refugee sponsorship. (Indeed, Edie Albisser, a
staff-person of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada,
informed Sponsorship Representative Mr. Steve Watson that the sponsorship
had been accepted on Friday, September 6th.) Mr. Ebrahim avoided
deportation only because he was so upset that the pilot would not take off
while he was still on the plane. Mr. Ebrahim is now back in detention and
the INS could proceed with his deportation at any time.

Mr. Ebrahim's INS deportation officer, Gabriel Roman, has told Canadian MP
Roy Cullen that the INS has no intention of abandoning plans to deport
him, and will only consider doing so if they are asked by the highest
levels of Canadian Government.

It would be unquestionably cruel and inhumane to deport Mr. Ebrahim to a
country where he has been harassed, beaten and tortured, and where he is
certain to face persecution, if not death, if he returns. We therefore
insist that you contact Mr. Roman and his supervisors and demand in the
strongest possible terms that Mr. Ebrahim deportation be stayed, as his
sponsorship has already been approved by the department of Citizenship and
Immigration. Our allies from OCAP Immigration have visited Foreign Affairs
Minister Bill Graham's constituency office in Toronto this week, and have
urged him to do the same. We are also aware that Mr. Watson, the
Sponsorship Representative for Mr. Ebrahim, wrote you with a similar
request on September 9th, two days before the INS tried to deport Mr.
Ebrahim.

We additionally ask that you personally ensure that the Canadian Consulate
in Buffalo move as quickly as possible to complete Mr. Ebrahim's
sponsorship process.

We look upon the racist cruelty of the INS's attempts to deport Mr.
Ebrahim -- in spite of the fact that Canadian citizens are prepared to
welcome him and sponsor his application for refugee status in this country
-- with the most sober contempt imaginable. We are sure that you do too.
We urge you to do everything within your power, as a human being duly
concerned with justice and as a Minister at the highest level of Canadian
Government, to prevent Mr. Ebrahim from being deported and to ensure the
rapid completion of his sponsorship process.

Please notify us of any actions you take with regard to this matter. We
will be following your response, and Mr. Ebrahim's case, in the days and
weeks to come.

Sincerely,

Sarita, Salma, Claire, Emmanuel, Stefan, Jaggi, Karina, Mary, Trish, Dan

Members of the "NO ONE IS ILLEGAL" Campaign (Montreal)
nooneisillegal@ziplip.com or 514-409-2049
--------------------

BACKGROUNDER

Nesiredin Ali Ebrahim, a member of the Harar ethnic minority of Ethiopia,
as well as a Muslim, is currently being held in detention in the United
States. The date set for his deportation is sometime next week. His
brother, who is himself a refugee, believes without a doubt that Ali will
be killed if returned to Ethiopia.

Nesiredin Ali Ebrahim comes from a middle class family of shoe and
clothing makers. In the 1980s the family suffered constant and severe
harassment from the Mengistu Government, which held power at the time.
Thousands of Ethiopians fled the brutal regime - including two of Ali's
older brothers who were sponsored by the YMCA and resettled in the United
States. Ali, however, chose to stay in Ethiopia to care for his ailing
father. He could not escape the government's attention for long though,
and was quickly conscripted into the Military to fight in the war against
the Eretrians. Despite his life being threatened, Ali refused to join the
military and declared himself politically and religiously opposed. As a
result he was taken into custody and kept blindfolded and without food for
a week. Ali was able to bribe a guard with a substantial amount of money
and his family's land and was smuggled out of custody on the seventh day.
He went into hiding and fled first to Djibouti (a country on the Eastern
border of Ethiopia) and then to Saudi Arabia. In both places he lacked the
work permits or visas to legally be in the countries and was arrested and
jailed several times as a result. When the Mengistu Government announced
amnesty for Ethiopians who opposed its doctrine, Ali returned. Shortly
after his arrival, he was contacted by a Mengistu operative and under
threat of death, directed to deliver a package of documents to the
Ethiopian Embassy in Djibouti. Ali was told not to open the package and
never knew what documents it contained. When the new Tegras Government
came to power, it labelled Ali as a supporter of the former Mengistu
Government and an enemy to the new administration, pointing to the package
as their evidence of his sympathies for the former Government. Ali was
taken into custody, beaten and tortured. Again, he was smuggled out on a
substantial bribe and again, he went into hiding. He entered the United
States as a nonimmigrant visitor on April 22, 1992 and applied for Asylum
that same year while his visa was still valid.

Ali's life in the United States and the INS

Ali's first interview for Asylum was held in 1993, but could not go ahead
as the Immigration and Naturalization Service failed to provide an
interpretor for him. In 1994 he hired a lawyer named Nashid Sabir. Sabir
filed annual renewals for Ali's work permit, but did nothing with respect
to his claim for Asylum. When the INS finally scheduled the continuation
of Asylum interview for 1998, Sabir did not show up. Ali's case was
referred to immigration court. Sabir attended the March 1999, but made
little effort to defend his client. INS prosecutors argued that Ali should
be denied asylum because the package (that Ali was forced to deliver to
the Ethopian embassy) demonstrated that he was helping the government
persecute civilians. Ali's claim for Asylum was denied. His appeal was
rejected because Sabir failed to file the paperwork on time. The Florida
Bar Association recently found probable cause that Sabir violated ethics
rules in another man's case and he now faces possible censure or stiffer
punishment by the Florida Supreme Court. The U.S. courts, however, will
not give leave to re-open Ali's case for ineffective counsel. On May 8th,
2002 Ali was taken into custody to await deportation and now holds the
dubious honour of being one of the longest held detainees at the Krome
Detention Centre in Florida.

Upon his arrival in the U.S., Ali applied for, and was granted, a work
permit. Prior to his detention, Ali worked as a cab driver in Florida,
sending money home to help his family. He has never been on welfare, has
no criminal record and never been charged with any crime. He has lead an
entirely peaceable life, and were it not for the disgusting behavior of
his lawyer, he would surely have been declared a refugee and very likely
would be a U.S. citizen by now.


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