CBSA hires private jet to deport two men to Djibouti

Posted by admin on Jun 14th, 2007

Globe and Mail, 14 June 2007
Joanna Smith

Federal border officials hired a private jet to fly two people to Djibouti last month after they were deemed too dangerous to stay in Canada. One of those passengers was Hussein Jilaow, 26, a Somali refugee and member of Winnipeg’s violent Mad Cowz gang with 13 convictions since 1999. He returned to Somalia after he was flown to the neighbouring country of Djibouti on May 23 aboard a chartered flight, his lawyer, David Matas, said. A second person from the Montreal area who “was deemed to be a danger to the public” was deported on that same plane, Canada Border Services Agency spokesman Eric Paradis said. He would not confirm whether this person also ended up in Somalia.

“In exceptional circumstances, we may enter into contracts with private airlines for individuals that cannot be removed on commercial airlines due to security or danger concerns,” said Loretta Nyhus, a Winnipeg CBSA spokeswoman in Winnipeg.

Four CBSA officers accompanied Mr. Jilaow on the flight to Djibouti, where they witnessed him board a local flight to Galkayo, a city in the Somali province of Puntland, Mr. Matas said.

Two of the officers – whom Mr. Matas identified as Pat McAvoy and Andy McMaster – are based in Winnipeg. Both officers declined to confirm their presence on the flight and would not comment on the case.

Ms. Nyhus confirmed that Mr. Jilaow was deported on May 23, but said “privacy and security reasons” prevented her from discussing the specifics of his case.

In an internal CBSA e-mail dated April 4, an officer in Montreal said it would cost about $275,000 to send three deportees and six or seven agents on a 10-seat Challenger jet to Djibouti. The e-mail said Toronto-based Skyservice Airlines Inc. was working on a scenario.

Since only two people ended up being deported on that flight, the CBSA did not use a Challenger jet and it cost “a lot less” than $275,000, Mr. Paradis said. Public records show the CBSA issued eight contracts to Skyservice worth a total of $467,370 from September, 2005, to March of this year. All are categorized as providing travel for “non-public servants.”

Federal law does not require the publication of contracts worth less than $10,000 or those from before March, 2004. Contracts more recent than April 20 are not yet available.

A CBSA source who did not want to be identified said the flight to Djibouti cost more than the most expensive published contract, which was $136,062.

Skyservice could not immediately confirm whether all those contracts involved deportations or whether one of its jets flew to Djibouti last month.

“It’s absolutely the nature of some of the work that we do, so I wouldn’t be surprised,” spokeswoman Sandy Buik said.

Ms. Nyhus said while every deportation is examined on a case-by-case basis, the CBSA considers a number of factors – such as whether someone has been charged or convicted of violent offences – before deciding to use a chartered flight.

Mr. Jilaow, like most of the members of the Mad Cowz gang, came to Canada from a war-torn country.

After witnessing his father killed by sniper fire in the summer of 1992, Mr. Jilaow fled Somalia with some other members of his clan. He did not know where his mother or five siblings were when he came to Canada in 1994. He was granted refugee status the next year.

Court documents show he was known to attack people with switchblades. Three years ago, he bit his own lip hard enough to make it bleed and spat at two police officers, threatening to infect them with HIV.

When deciding to use a chartered flight for deportation, the CBSA considers whether people continued to be violent while incarcerated, are unwilling to be removed or threatened anyone regarding their deportation, Ms. Nyhus said.

Mr. Paradis said cost also plays a role in the decision.

“It has to be as cheap as possible, it has to be safe for our officers, safe for the detainees and safe for the Canadian public and the public in general that could be on the flights,” he said. The majority of deportees do not require escorts and even those who do can usually leave on commercial flights. Mr. Paradis said using a chartered flight “happens very few times a year.”

Mr. Jilaow’s lawyer said the chartered flight is not the only thing that stands out about his client’s deportation.

A federal judge ruled earlier this year that Mr. Jilaow was “a public menace who does not deserve to be in Canada,” but could be killed if border officials went ahead with plans to deport him to his hometown of Mogadishu.

Court documents show the CBSA had originally planned to deport Mr. Jilaow to the city of Berbera in the northern part of Somalia, deemed safer for members of his ethnic group, the Marehan clan.

The CBSA changed its plans after learning that Berbera’s location in Somaliland complicated matters. In an affidavit filed with the federal court, a CBSA officer said that not only would Mr. Jilaow be denied permission to land because he is from the south, but negotiating a removal to Somaliland might have required Canada to recognize the breakaway republic as an “international independent state.”

Mr. Matas said the judge’s decision to allow Mr. Jilaow’s removal only if the CBSA changed the itinerary might have implications for people denied refugee status because they are considered safe in one part of their homeland.

He said that normally, someone who loses their risk claim is handed over to removal officials, who plan the travel itinerary without looking to see whether there is an area of the country where it is unsafe for them to go.

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