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Muslim groups ask feds to intervene on behalf of Egyptian refugees in Vancouver

From 2015 to 2021, Canada received over 3,900 refugee claims from Egypt and accepted about 3,100
Abdelrahman Elmady is shown in a handout photo. Dozens of Muslim Canadian organizations are pleading to the prime minister, public safety minister, and president of the Canada Border Services Agency to intervene on behalf of Egyptian refugee claimants in Vancouver who have been denied because of their association with the Freedom and Justice Party. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

Dozens of Muslim Canadian organizations are urging the prime minister, public safety minister, and president of the Canada Border Services Agency to intervene on behalf of Egyptian refugee claimants in Vancouver.

The Canadian Muslim Public Affairs Council says Abdelrahman Elmady’s refugee claim was denied in Vancouver after the CBSA characterized him as a “security threat,” because of ties to the Freedom and Justice Party in his home country.

The council says he was deemed a security risk because of the party’s connection to the Muslim Brotherhood, though neither group are listed as terrorist entities in Canada.

Elmady was among millions of Egyptians who took to the streets in the 2011 uprising known as the Arab Spring to protest against the country’s then-president, Hosni Mubarak, and demand democracy.

The Freedom and Justice Party came to power following the 2012 elections, a year after Mubarak’s resignation.

In 2013, Egypt’s army chief seized power in a military coup against the elected Freedom and Justice Party’s government.

Since then, the government has arrested thousands of the party’s members and Muslim Brotherhood supporters after labelling them as “terrorists” in a campaign that Amnesty International called a “ruthless bid to crush dissent.”

Elmady said the campaign against his party forced him to flee Egypt for Saudi Arabia before he eventually landed in Canada in 2017.

“I am now facing deportation by the CBSA to Egypt where I will be persecuted,” Elmady said in a written statement Monday, adding that he is not the only one at risk.

The council, which serves as a lobby group in partnership with other Canadian Muslim associations, says at least four other families are facing a similar fate in Vancouver because of ties to the party.

Between 2015 and 2021, Canada received more than 3,900 refugee claims from Egypt and accepted about 3,100 of them, according to data from the Immigration and Refugee Board.

The council issued an open letter to government officials alleging the recommendations of the Vancouver CBSA officers are based in individual bias and Islamophobia, and are not consistent with the agency’s decisions elsewhere in the country.

The letter is signed by 12 national and 28 regional organizations. They call for immediate relief for those whose claims have been denied and for officials to issue pre-emptive instructions to CBSA officials in Vancouver to allow similar claims for protection to proceed.

“I think we can’t unlink this to years, decades really, of biases against Muslims and Muslim organizations as well as Muslim governments,” Sarah Mushtaq, the council’s spokeswoman, said Monday.

While the CBSA officers have operated within their authority, Mushtaq said they are afforded so much discretion it can allow stereotypes and biases to creep in.

The Liberal government tabled two pieces of legislation that would make the CBSA subject to the same civilian complaints process that applies to the RCMP, but the bills died on the order paper before making it through the legislative steps in Parliament to become law.

CBSA and the public safety minister did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

—Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

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