Wednesday, March 7, 2007

ACLU sues on behalf of Canadian boy held in Texas

Globe and Mail
7 March 2007
Group seeks family's immediate release


From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

A nine-year-old Canadian boy being held at an immigration detention centre in Texas with his Iranian parents is now involved in a civil lawsuit seeking his release.

The American Civil Liberties Union yesterday filed papers against the secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and six officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, on behalf of 10 children being held at the T. Don Hutto Family Detention Center in Taylor, Tex.

Canadian-born Kevin Yourdkhani and his parents, Majid Yourdkhani and Masomeh Alibegi, were detained last month after their flight to Toronto made an unscheduled stop on U.S. soil and they were found to be carrying fake passports. They were attempting to return to Canada after being deported to Iran in December, 2005, when their 10-year quest for asylum here failed. Their last names became public record when the lawsuit was filed.

The civil liberties union says the ICE does not meet minimum conditions for housing minors, and many children lack access to adequate medical care and education opportunities.

"Those standards established that children should be released promptly, and if they have to remain in detention, that they are placed in the least restrictive setting available, where they're guaranteed basic educational, health and social benefits," said Lisa Graybill, legal director of the ACLU of Texas.

"I don't think the Hutto facility has been compliant with any one of those standards."

The lawsuit asks the government to release the 10 children and their families.

Meanwhile, a formal application for a temporary residency permit for Mr. Yourdkhani and Ms. Alibegi, who have no legal status in Canada, was filed on Monday with Canadian immigration authorities, said Andrew Brouwer, the family's Toronto-based lawyer.

Along with the application, Mr. Brouwer sent Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Diane Finley a letter written by Amnesty International that assesses the risk the family faces if it is returned to Iran.

"As individuals who have claimed that they were detained and tortured by the Iranian authorities; fled Iran by illegally crossing the border into Turkey; obtained fraudulent documents to travel to Canada and whose case has been widely publicized in the media, Amnesty International believes that [they] are at serious risk of grave human rights abuses including detention and torture in Iran, and as such they should not be forcibly removed to that country," wrote Gloria Nafziger, co-ordinator at Amnesty International.

Mr. Brouwer said immigration authorities began reviewing the family's temporary residency application as early as Monday night.

"If they wanted to, it could be decided by the end of today. They can either decide to grant temporary residence to Majid and Masomeh, or not."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters yesterday that whenever Canadians are incarcerated abroad, the federal government contacts consular officials to provide assistance.

With a report from Karen Howlett