Saturday, March 22, 2014

Hugh Adami: Man languishes in West Bank as wife, daughter wait return

BY HUGH ADAMI, OTTAWA CITIZEN MARCH 21, 2014


OTTAWA — Mohammed Abdalmajid doesn’t really know if he is any closer to being reunited with his family in Ottawa after wasting the last 18 months of his life in the volatile West Bank.

The 29-year-old is weary, anxious and depressed as he languishes in the village of Abud, near Ramallah, awaiting word about returning to Canada as a permanent resident.

He is worried — for good reason — that his stay will be much longer in the landlocked territory, which contains Palestinian settlements and some Jewish ones. Abdalmajid’s case before and after he was deported from Canada in October 2012 was riddled with blunders by Canadian authorities.

Yet Immigration isn’t showing any sense of urgency to reunite Abdalmajid with his wife, Saly Rasheed, and their three-year-old daughter Lamees.

There is also misinformation being provided about some of the circumstances of his case, Abdalmajid says. For example, Immigration says Abdalmajid refused to leave Canada after all legal avenues to his failed refugee claim were exhausted. As a result, it says he had to rounded up before his deportation.

In reality, says Abdalmajid, just hours before he left the country on Oct. 22, 2012, he arrived at the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) offices on St. Laurent Boulevard — just as he had been ordered to following the Federal Court’s refusal to review his refuge claim. That’s where he last saw his wife and daughter.

Abdalmajid constantly checks on the status of his wife’s sponsorship application. There always appears to be a hitch or little progress. So far, he has medical clearance, but the Canadian Embassy in Tel Aviv is still waiting for his security clearance to come through. He paid the required fees and submitted the required fingerprints and police documents months ago, he says. Then, because he was deported, there is the matter of getting what is called an Authorization to Return to Canada (ARC). Who knows how forthcoming that will be? Immigration says Abdalmajid “must demonstrate that there are compelling reasons to consider ... when weighed against the reasons for (his) removal.”

Abdalmajid also worries that if he isn’t back in Canada by Aug. 28, he will be forced to undergo another medical, likely adding months to his stay in the West Bank.

Lamees, who turns four this summer, has the usual questions about her father’s return: Will he back for her birthday? For Father’s Day? But lately, Lamees asks her mother whether she is really telling the truth about her father ever returning.

Rasheed, 24, maintains her job as a driving instructor, ferrying Lamees between day care and the child’s maternal grandparents, with whom they live in OrlĂ©ans.

Abdalmajid says life in the West Bank continues to be unsafe and unstable — much like it was nine years ago when he moved to the U.S. and was eventually granted a temporary Green Card — a last step before American permanent residency. He met the Iraqi-born Rasheed in Montgomery, Alabama, in 2006, and then followed her and her family to Ottawa after they moved here in 2008. They were married in 2009.

Though Rasheed qualified for refugee status and eventually permanent residency, Abdalmajid’s refugee application was rejected, eventually leading to his deportation in October 2012. Having a temporary Green Card hurt his case before the Immigration and Refugee Board as it was deemed he did not need protection as he could return to the U.S. But when he checked to see if could return to the U.S. while his wife tried to sponsor him, he was told his card had expired.

Abdalmajid, a former shoe-store manager at Billings Bridge Plaza, says he doesn’t wander far from his parents’ West Bank home because he is fearful that the tiniest miscue will cost him his return to Canada. He says Israeli soldiers come into Abud from time to time, and when they do, trouble with the Palestinians is inevitable.

“I’m living a completely isolated life, sitting at home, not going out at all. I’m avoiding any kind of contact with anybody because sometimes there are clashes between the Israeli soldiers and the Palestinians in my village. So I don’t want to be held accountable for one of those stupid things.

“If someone says, ‘We saw Mohammed at that,’ it’s pretty simple: the Israeli soldiers come to my house, (arrest and jail) me.”

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