Somali-Canadians feel harassed in Kenya: activists

CBC.ca

Somali-Canadians are often singled out by border and immigration officials in Kenya as
vulnerable people from a wealthy country who are perfect for a shakedown, community
activists say.

“And they’re constantly asked for bribes,” said Ahmed Hussen of the Canadian Somali
Congress. “If they refuse, they run the risk of having the same ordeal as Suaad Hagi
Mohamud.”

The Kenyan border issue gained national attention following the release by Kenya of
Mohamud, the Toronto woman who faced criminal charges in the East African nation
and deportation to her former native Somalia after Kenyan immigration officials —with
Canada’s consent — charged her with identity theft.

Mohamud, 31, was trying to return to Toronto in May after visiting her mother in Kenya.
But immigration officials there said the photo on her Canadian passport didn’t look like
her and threw her in jail. Canadian consular officials agreed and urged Kenyan officials
to prosecute her for allegedly using another person’s passport and being in the country
illegally.

Her case was dismissed on Friday and she was released and repatriated to Toronto on
Saturday only after a DNA test proved her identity.

“This is not an isolated case,” said Osman Ali of the Somali-Canadian Association of
Etobicoke. “Many, many cases like this are happening. People are frustrated … afraid to
travel with their own Canadian passport.”

Toronto restaurant owner Hussein Adani, who is originally from Somalia, said the last
time he was in Kenya he had to bribe immigrant officials with $50 to get out of the
country even though he had a valid Canadian passport.

“Travelling to Kenya as a Somali, you are not Canadian,” he said. “When they see you,
they judge your colour, they don’t see your passport.”

The Canadian Arab Federation said many people don’t trust Ottawa to protect them
when they’re overseas.

“Who will be next?” asked Mohamed Boudjenane, CAF’s executive director. “I think as a
Canadian we should be very shocked and we should be very revolted when our
government is treating between its citizens differently.”

Border corruption

Human rights lawyer Darren Thorne said Canadian consular officials know all about
Kenyan border corruption.

“Our consular officials, who tend to be very good by and large. are well aware of these
circumstances,” he said. “They have more experience with this than anyone else. They
have seen this before from Canadians who have come through.”

The Somali-Canadian Association of Etobicoke is calling on the federal government to
hold an inquiry and to compensate Mohamud for her three-month ordeal.

“The Canadian government has to send a clear message that all Canadians are equal
and should be treated equally,” Ali said.

Both Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon and Public Safety Minister Peter Van
Loan said they have asked their departments to review Mohamud’s case to determine
what went wrong, but they didn’t indicate when the reviews would be completed or
whether they will be made public.

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