Media release Racism

PSA: Advocates in Halifax rally behind former child refugee facing deportation to Somalia (updated)

For the Facebook event click here

Halifax – Advocates in Halifax, Toronto and other parts of Canada in solidarity with community members and advocates in Edmonton are calling on Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale to stop the deportation of Mr. Abdilahi Elmi to Somalia scheduled for August 21.

Mr. Elmi, like the well-documented case of Mr. Abdoul Abdi, was given refugee status as a child and then taken into state care which failed to apply for proper immigration documentation for him. Mr. Elmi left Somali as a child, has no family there and does not speak Somali.

Fatuma Abdi, the sister of Abdoul Abdi, social worker Robert Wright, women’s health advocate and nurse Martha Paynter, and El Jones who advocated on the Abdoul Abdi case, are holding a press conference on Tuesday, August 20, 2019 at the office of Liberal MP Andy Fillmore at 12:15 PM to protest the deportation of Elmi, and to draw attention to the lack of change in deportation policy since the case of Abdoul Abdi.

WHAT: Community and legal press conference to call for a stay on deportation of Mr. Abdilahi Elmi

WHEN: 12:15pm, Tuesday, August 20, 2019

WHERE: Andy Filmore’s Constituency Office – 1888 Brunswick St #808, Halifax


● Fatuma Abdi: sister of Abdoul Abdi, former refugee youth in care and advocate for children in the child welfare system.
● Robert Wright: social worker, DPAD Coalition, and African Nova Scotian justice advocate.
● Martha Paynter: nurse, founder of Women’s Wellness Within, women’s health advocate.
● Stacey Gomez: migrant justice organizer with No One Is Illegal – Halifax/K’jipuktuk?
● El Jones: community advocate, part of the coalition to save Abdoul Abdi.
● Community advocates in solidarity with Mr. Elmi


  • Mr. Elmi arrived in Canada at the age of 10 and was granted refugee status. He was taken into state care at 13. 
  • Mr. Elmi ended up living on the streets by 16, and became involved in the criminal justice system, in part, he has noted, due to substance use issues that he is now working to manage.
  • On June 26, the Canada Border Services Agency deemed Elmi inadmissible as a result of his involvement with the criminal justice system, and his deportation is scheduled on August 21st to Somalia – a country he has not been to in 25 years. Mr. Elmi is scheduled to be removed to Kismayo. Kismayo was recently in the news after Canadian journalist Hodan Nalayeh was killed there with 25 others by gunmen. 
  • Mr. Elmi’s case mirrors that of Mr. Abdoul Abdi whose deportation was stayed by Minister Ralph Goodale and has resulted in the overhaul of child welfare laws in Nova Scotia. 
  • See and 


Advocates in Halifax, in solidarity with The African Canadian Civic Engagement Council and the Ribbon Rouge Foundation in Edmonton and with advocates across Canada are calling on the Canadian government to protect Abdilahi Elmi, a former child refugee, from torture, cruel and unusual treatment, indefinite detention, and certain death.

Canada is failing Abdilahi Elmi, a former Somali child-refugee who is facing deportation to Somalia on August 21, 2019. 

Fatuma Abdoul, the sister of Abdoul Abdi – another former child refugee who did not receive citizenship due to being a ward of the state –  condemns this deportation. “When we fought and won for my brother, I believed we had made a change. It’s painful to be back here a year later fighting the same neglect for another child failed by the child welfare system in Canada,” says Abdi.

Elmi arrived in 1994 as a child refugee, at the age of 10, after living in a refugee camp with his grandmother for several years. A few years later, he was removed from his family home and placed in state care. Elmi ended up living on the streets by 16, and became involved in the criminal justice system, in part, he has noted, due to substance use issues that he is now working to manage.

The reason that Elmi faces not only incarceration, but deportation, is the result of neglect within the provincial child welfare system: Elmi was a refugee in state care, but the child welfare agency that was responsible for him did not apply for his citizenship status. Because the state failed Elmi in this regard, he has, instead, been living as a refugee for 24 years. Not only did the state not meet its obligations to Mr. Elmi, but it also prevented his mom from making an application for him due to his being a ward of the state.

A child refugee who becomes a ward of the state should have this same opportunity as other individuals with refugee status who generally become Canadian citizens. The government had a responsibility for Elmi’s education and safety, to regularize his status, and to create for him a meaningful path to citizenship, and they failed him in every way.

On June 26, the Canada Border Services Agency deemed Elmi inadmissible as a result of his involvement with the criminal justice system. His inadmissibility was made possible by a clause in Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), which states that any non-citizen with a sentence over six months may be deemed inadmissible to the country. Though this clause is wrought with its injustices, it wouldn’t have impacted Elmi if the child welfare system had done its job when they took Elmi into their custody and made him a ward of the state.

The potential situation for Abdilahi Elmi when he gets deported to Somalia is inhumane as the government of Canada is exposing Elmi to harm, risk of torture and cruel and unusual treatment. Mr. Elmi does not know anything about his birth father, nor his birth father’s name, antecedents and familial relationships. He does not know the clan in Somalia that he belongs to since he does not know his birth father’s clan and since the acquisition of Somali citizenship is based on a patrilineal system, Elmi will be severely prejudiced by his removal to Somalia by Canada.

The Somali government is unlikely to release Mr. Elmi to roam the streets of Kismayo or Mogadishu upon arrival in the country if he is not able to prove that he is a citizen of Somalia. Having never held a Somali passport, it is unlikely that Elmi will be able to prove his citizenship of Somalia. The outcome will be that Mr. Elmi will be detained without a criminal charge for an inordinate length of time only to be released at the pleasure of the government.

Mr. Elmi’s potential detention by the Somali authorities will invariably expose him to the risk of torture and/or cruel and unusual treatment in the hands of fellow detainees who, realizing that he does not belong to a known clan and does not speak the Somali language, are very likely to want to subjugate him. Mr. Elmi is also most likely going to be subjected to acts of torture and cruel and unusual treatment by state and prison authorities who would want him to prove his Somali citizenship.

The possibility that Mr. Elmi will be detained without a criminal charge and face torture and/or be subjected to cruel and unusual treatment in Somalia infringes upon Mr. Elmi’s s.7 Charter right. Canada must uphold Mr. Elmi’s charter rights by not being a party to his torture and certain death in the hands of human rights-averse Somalis and state authorities.

Also, If Elmi is at some point released to roam the streets of Kismayo or Mogadishu, Elmi will be an easy target of Al Shabab recruiters and militants. Without a clan affiliation and loyalty, removing Mr. Elmi to Somalia is tantamount to Canada signing his death warrant.

We are calling on Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale to cancel Elmi’s deportation order. We are also calling on provinces to mandate provincial child welfare agencies to apply for the immigration status of all refugees in state care. Further, to avoid further cases like Elmi’s, we are calling on the federal government to work with the provinces to retroactively grant status to all refugees who were wards of the state and remain without citizenship.