Tenuous links to terrorism keep refugees in limbo, devastate lives

Posted by admin on Jun 6th, 2011

Nicholas Keung, Toronto Star, Jun. 6 2011

Dalvik Kujjo spent the summer of 1984 handing out flyers promoting a budding anti-government rebel group in Sudan and guiding recruits to village meetings. The Sudanese refugee said he supported the African Christians’ fight against the Arab Islamist government in Khartoum, and that was the extent of his involvement with the rebel group.

But in the eyes of the Canada Border Services Agency, Kujjo is a member of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, a terrorist group, and deemed “inadmissible” to Canada.

Now, 23 years after he was granted asylum in Canada from the Sudanese civil wars, Kujjo still lives in limbo in Toronto because Ottawa has refused him permanent resident status.

Kujjo’s case is one of many that call into question the broad definition of “membership” in a terrorist or subversive organization applied by Canadian officials when they deny status for what lawyers describe as “peripheral” support of such causes.

In April, the Immigration and Refugee Board concurred with a government opinion that 74-year-old Sugunanayake Joseph was inadmissible because her role as a Tamil politician’s wife — supporting her late husband’s career and accompanying him to political events — amounted to membership in the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

A recent ruling by the Federal Court of Appeal in Ottawa’s favour will make life even more difficult for people such as Kujjo and Joseph, immigration and refugee lawyers say.

In March, the appeal court reversed a decision by a lower court and denied a judicial review application by Muhsen Ahmed Ramadan Agraira, a failed refugee claimant from Libya, who was found to be a member of the Libyan National Salvation Front and inadmissible on security grounds.

The court reaffirmed the discretionary authority of the minister of public safety in granting relief to those deemed inadmissible. It said the minister need not look at humanitarian factors in the decision.

That discretionary power will “allow immigration officers to brand people as terrorists based on flimsy evidence,” said Agraira’s lawyer, Lorne Waldman, who has filed an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Canada’s immigration law says a person does not have to personally commit acts, or be involved in the management of a terrorist or subversive or criminal organization, to be inadmissible. All it takes is if he or she has knowledge of the essential nature of the group and there is “an objective manifestation” of participation in its affairs.

Although the Libyan National Salvation Front was an opposition group that tried to topple Moammar Gadhafi’s regime to build a democratic government, it falls under the definition of being a “subversive” organization.

Agraira admitted to joining the front and was a member for two years. He told immigration officials he wasn’t a committed member because he would support anyone who tried to remove Gadhafi’s autocratic regime.

“There is clear evidence that the LNSF is a group that has engaged in terrorism and has used terrorist violence in attempts to overthrow a government . . . (and) has been aligned at various times with Islamic opposition groups that have links to Al Qaeda,” wrote then public safety minister Peter Van Loan in denying relief to Agraira.

In briefing notes on Kujjo’s case, the Canada Border Services Agency alleged the Sudan People’s Liberation Army forcibly recruited child soldiers during “later stages of the conflict.”

The group, now the main constituent of the Southern Sudanese government, also allegedly admitted to kidnapping foreign oil workers as part of the campaign against Sudanese oilfields, claiming foreign companies were tacit supporters of the Islamist regime.

Kujjo told officials that he attended a SPLA meeting while in the United States in 1986 and made donations of approximately $10 a year to the group until 1991.

“It is evident that Mr. Kujjo was aware that he was involved in the recruitment of combatant personnel, thus materially contributing to the advancement of a militant organization,” border services said in notes to then public safety minister Stockwell Day.

But Andrew Brouwer, Kujjo’s lawyer, insisted his client was only actively involved with the group over the course of a single summer, shortly after its inception in 1983.

The group’s human rights abuses and crimes against civilians, he pointed out, took place after 1986, after Kujjo left for the United States to study in Kentucky. Kujjo sought asylum in Canada in 1987 and his claim was found to have a credible basis. It wasn’t until 2001 that he learned he would not be granted permanent status because of his alleged membership in SPLA.

“I have spent half my life in Canada. It is just devastating,” said Kujjo. “I don’t present any kind of threat to Canada.”

Comments are closed.