Jailed former Somali child refugee to be released, transferred to treatment centre

A former Somali refugee and foster child who is facing deportation will be released from the Edmonton Remand Centre where he has been held since March and will be heading to a treatment centre.

Abdilahi Elmi had been scheduled for deportation in August because of his criminal record, until the UN petitioned Canada to delay his departure.

Elmi secured a release order from the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada during a review of his detention on Friday, his lawyer told CBC News.

“It means a lot. It’s an important step in a direction that I, as his counsel, plan to take him,” said Idowu Ohioze.

Treatment for alcohol abuse

As part of the 34-year-old’s release plan, he will reside at Healing Hearts, a sober living housing program in Edmonton while he receives treatment for alcohol addiction, Ohioze said.

“The Edmonton Remand Centre, or any remand centre, is hardly an environment to rehabilitate someone whose life of criminality has been fuelled by addiction to alcohol,” Ohioze said.

After a UN committee asked for a delay in his deportation, it requested further information on the situation of returning refugees to Somalia. Elmi’s lawyer Idowu Ohioze and the federal government will both make submissions so the UN committee. It will then issue a non-binding decision on whether his rights have been violated.

The delay gave Elmi a “temporary reprieve,” allowing Ohioze and Elmi’s supporters more time to strategize, the lawyer said at the time.

Elmi arrived in Canada in 1994 after fleeing Somalia and living in a refugee camp. The Ontario government soon took him from his mother and he became a ward of the province.

No citizenship

He was living on the streets by age 16. He began committing crimes, but advocates say his actions were fuelled in part by substance abuse in response to the trauma he experienced as a child.

Ohioze has told CBC News that the Ontario child welfare system never applied for Canadian citizenship on his client’s behalf, and, at the time Elmi applied in 2010, he was informed he had run out of time.

Elmi’s mother and other supporters have said it would be a death sentence to deport him to Somalia, where he has no family and no knowledge of the language or culture.

Elmi is still being held at the Edmonton Remand Centre until his release is finalized, Ohioze said. He says Elmi is expected to be transferred to the treatment facility in the coming days.

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