Mohamed Cherfi recognized as a political refugee by the United States

Posted by admin on Jun 1st, 2005

Update June 2, 2005: Mohamed Cherfi recognized as a political refugee by the United States

The Board of Immigration Appeal in the United States has just recognized Mohamed Cherfi as a political refugee by overturning the refusal handed down by a U.S. Immigration Court judge on October 22, 2004. That recognition highlights all the injustice suffered by Mr. Cherfi in conjunction with the processing of his application for immigration to Canada and Quebec, which have several times denied the serious risks facing him in Algeria. The organizations and individuals supporting Mr. Cherfi, along with his partner, Louise Boivin, demand that the Quebec and Canadian authorities take measures so that he can return to Canada immediately.

The U.S. decision recognizes that Mohamed Cherfi faces persecution in Algeria for having criticized, while living in Canada, the human rights violations in that country. In addition, the judgment confirms that people who take such positions are victims of reprisals, such as criminal charges of defamation, in Algeria. The Board of Immigration Appeal also took into account the Algerian authorities’ awareness of Mr. Cherfi’s activities in Canada as spokesperson for the Action Committee for Non-Status Algerians.

Further to this decision, the U.S. authorities must conduct the requisite security check in immigration cases. This final step will take several more weeks, delaying Mr. Cherfi’s release that much longer.

In Canada The examination of the application for residence in Canada on humanitarian grounds filed by Mohamed Cherfi with the Canadian and Quebec authorities in June 2004 has still not been completed. It should first be recalled that Citizenship and Immigration Canada denied him refugee status last March following an interview conducted at the prison in Batavia by a representative of the Canadian Consulate in Buffalo.

The Québec immigration department (MICC) conducted an interview with him on March 10 in conjunction with his application as “a person in a particularly distressful situation”. In April, Mr. Cherfi learned that the MICC had refused to grant him status on one of the two grounds of his application, namely, that “his physical safety is threatened by risk of imprisonment, torture or death if he cannot remain in or come to Québec” (s. 18(c)(iii) of the Quebec Regulation respecting the selection of foreign nationals). Under the law, the group sponsorship by five Quebec City residents applied only to that ground of the application.

However, the MICC has yet to rule on the second ground of that same application as “a person in a particularly distressful situation”. That ground reads as follows in the Regulation: “his physical, mental or moral well-being and that of his family legally in Québec would be seriously affected if he could not remain in or come to Québec” (s.18(c)(i)). The telephone interview scheduled for yesterday relative to these proceedings could not be conducted, because the civil servant in charge did not make the necessary arrangements with the prison in Batavia, where Mohamed Cherfi is still being held.

Whereas the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeal in the United States confirms the legitimacy of Mohamed Cherfi’s need for protection, the Quebec and Canadian immigration authorities continue to put up roadblocks to his return here.

It’s high time the federal and Quebec immigration ministers take urgent measures to bring Mohamed Cherfi back to Canada as soon as possible. They have in hand everything they need to do so. We ask the MICC to immediately issue a Quebec selection certificate to Mohamed Cherfi, who more than qualifies for one. Similarly, we ask federal citizenship and immigration minister Joseph Volpe to immediately grant Mr. Cherfi a temporary resident permit so that he can return to Canada now.

The injustice perpetrated by the Canadian immigration system In recognizing that Mohamed Cherfi faces persecution if deported to Algeria, the decision of the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeal bears witness to the great injustice perpetrated against him by the Canadian and Quebec immigration systems.

The military-style arrest of Mohamed Cherfi while in sanctuary at Saint-Pierre United Church and his deportation to the U.S. prison where his freedom has been denied him for 15 months are serious breaches of his fundamental rights. These extremely disturbing acts lead us to conclude that respect for sanctuary is a fundamental principle which must no longer be flouted by the authorities.

Furthermore, in the absence of a right of appeal, the Canadian authorities’ refusal to recognize Mohamed Cherfi as a refugee before and after his deportation almost endangered his life. The U.S. decision shows just how important it is for a right of appeal to be included in Canada’s refugee determination process, a right long requested by organizations for the defence of refugee rights.

Mohamed Cherfi was also refused a right of residence in Canada after having lived here for six years under the protection of a moratorium on deportations to Algeria. This highlights, moreover, the intolerable situation of many people under a moratorium, who are forced to live with uncertainty for years, with no recognition of many of their rights, because their status has not been regularized.

Clearly, both levels of government have been resolutely biased against Mohamed Cherfi, which has worked against him throughout the processing of his file. He was entitled to exercise his freedom of expression by publicly criticizing the system and Canadian and Quebec immigration procedures as spokesperson for the Action Committee for Non-Status Algerians. Rights and freedoms must apply to all human beings, regardless of their culture of origin and regardless of whether they are asylum seekers.

A movement of solidarity of the utmost importance We sincerely thank the thousands of people and hundreds of organizations that have supported the cause of Mohamed Cherfi to date and contributed to the legal aid fund. There is no doubt we would not be where we are today without the sweeping movement of solidarity that has been demanding his return to Canada for more than a year. It is crucial to keep up the support until his return becomes reality

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