Stories of Palestinian refugee
claimants facing deportation
The story of 3 elderly Palestinians currently in Sanctuary at
the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce Church in Montreal: Nabih, age 69 – Khalil, age 67 - and
Thérèse, age 62
Nabih Rizk Ayoub and his brother Khalil are both born in the 30’s in Al Basa, a
village 35 Km from Haïfa in Palestine, which was at the time under British
The state of Israel is created; the Israelis and neighboring Arab countries go
to war. Nabih and his brother Khalil are expelled from their homeland. They seek
refuge in Dbayeh refugee camp, one of 14 refugee camps set up in Lebanon by the
United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
Armed battles explode between rival militias in Lebanon. Nabih, Thérèse and
Khalil seek refuge in West Beirut.
Beirut is under the heavy fire of rival militias. Another exodus for the Ayoub
family to Naïma, 20 Km to the south of Beirut.
Israel invades Lebanon. More than 2000 Palestinian refugees are massacred by
right-wing Christian militias allied to Israel in the Sabra and Shatila refugee
camps. Yasser Arafat and the PLO are expelled from Lebanon. Nabih, Thérèse and
Khalil return to Beirut.
The civil war continues in Lebanon with, what came to be known as, the war of
the camps. Palestinian refugee camps are under siege for months, thousands
are killed. The Ayoubs flee once more to seek refuge for a few months in Sidon
before returning to the Lebanese capital. Nabih is injured.
Another back and forth for the Ayoubis between Beirut and the Palestinian
refugee camp of Ein El Helweh (Sidon) where they were residing.
The situation in Lebanon continues to deteriorate for the Palestinian refugees
who are denied their most fundamental rights. The conditions in Ein El Helweh
camp are dangerous as rival militias often enter into gun battles. The Ayoub
family decides to flee the life of persecution of the camp. They obtain an
American visa and arrive in April to Canada where they claim a refugee status.
On January 29th 2003, the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) member
rejects their refugee claim. On the 19th of June 2003, the judicial
review at the federal Court is rejected and finally on the 26th of
November 2003 the Pre-removal risk assessment is also rejected.
On January 8th, Citizenship & Immigration Canada asks the 3
Palestinians to present themselves at their offices on the 3rd of
February 2004 at 8h30 AM in order for them to enforce their removal from Canada.
In mid-January, the 3 Palestinians seek refuge at the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce church
whose members unanimously decided to support the 3 Palestinians who were facing
imminent deportation to the refugee camp of Ein El Helweh in Lebanon.
My name is Youssef El
was born in Bourj el-Barajneh, a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. My family
fled their homes in Palestine in 1948, and have lived for 55 years as refugees
in Lebanon, without citizenship or human rights. I grew up stateless, in Bourj
el-Barajneh refugee camp, under unbearable hardship, and I had to live every day
of my life persecuted and discriminated against. As a Palestinian, I have no
right to work in almost 80 professions, own or inherit property, access public
education or healthcare, and travel freely.
As a child I lived through civil war, camp sieges and massacres. Our houses in
the camps still bare the scars of the attacks, as they have not been
reconstructed. We faced hunger many times, rarely sleeping as we were afraid of
bomb attacks. During these times we were unable to go to the market as we were
not allowed to leave the camp. We survived on what we had. When I was five years
old, my family and I were in our house when a bomb exploded on the roof. Most of
us were injured. I was injured near my heart and needed surgery and
In 1982, during the Israeli invasion of Beirut, a bomb exploded in my father’s
car, and he lost sight in both his eyes. In 1990, my father fell from our roof
and was rushed to the Red Crescent hospital in the camp. The camp did not have
the proper equipment to help him as he needed an urgent operation on his back,
so they sent him to a Beirut hospital, Al Makased. As UNRWA does not cover the
costs of his emergency operation, we were forced to borrow money from everyone
we knew to cover the hospital fees. The operation failed and he became disabled.
After 3 months his situation worsened. At the end of 1990 my father died,
leaving my mother, myself and 5 other children.
In top of the violence we suffered in the camp, we also went through an
unimaginable nightmare: the kidnapping of my sister Enas on July 27, 1993. A
Syrian military officer kidnapped her when she was 11 years and she stayed
missing for almost 4 years. We informed the authorities, placed posters of her everywhere, but she was
unfound. Almost 4 years after her disappearance, she was released by the
military man and came back home. She told us of her terrible story. She had been
kept in Syria, in the house of that man
and was raped many times. A few weeks after she was back to us, we found out
that she was pregnant. My sister’s daughter, Waffa, is now 5 years old, and
because she has no father she does not even have papers and access to the basic
UNRWA services most children get. She cannot attend school, and also lives under
threat daily of him returning for her. Until now our family lives in fear, as
the Syrian militia member had returned to our home and demanded little Waffa
back. He has much more power than our family does, and we have little to protect
have always been ambitious and used the little opportunity I had to learn about
computers and business. In 1998, I finished high school, and later I obtained a
diploma from Norwegian People’s Aid in Business and Office Practice. Even though
I was educated, I could not find a job because of the restrictions imposed on
stateless Palestinian refugees. Faced with these restrictions I had no civil
rights whatsoever and no future in Lebanon.
came to Canada hoping that I could study and work in a country where I can live
with human rights, peace and respect. I have one sister who lives in Canada, she
is married and has held citizenship for seven years. My other sister and brother
are being sponsored by a group of five well-established Canadians, under the
Women at Risk Program, due to the risks to the livelihood of both my sister and
her young daughter Waffa. My mother was included in this sponsorship; however,
she passed away last spring.
am now 24 years old, and have spent many of my adult years developing my support
network and my life in Montreal. As a stateless person, I wish to have a place
that wants me to be living on its soil, to have the same human rights as those
around me. To uproot my life here in order to go back to persecution in the
refugee camp of Bourj el Barajneh would be unbearable. I would be sentenced to
living in a 55 year old refugee camp, as a forgotten person, without protection,
my family or the supportive community I have developed here.
their death, seeking life…
This is an appeal from
Shaker Khazal to the Canadian government to stop the deportation of Palestinian
refugees from Canada. Shaker is a Stateless 15 year old Palestinian refugee
stuck in the refugee camp of Bourj El Barajneh in Lebanon.
Every moment, a new thing in life occurs! One of the things that occur is the
suffering of people thrown in a world of problems, sunk in dried human rights,
waiting death, and looking for hope to achieve their dreams.
these tiny innocent words, I can describe our life as Palestinian refugees in
story began since our land was lost between the crazy circumstances, and then,
we were thrown in the land of being a refugee, which is the land of death.
the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, are living a life emptied from all the
basic human rights; going to public schools, going to public hospitals, working,
.. We are living in camps that miss electricity, water … The kids are born to be
refugees without knowing why, they are only victims paying their life for
problems were put in.
are people who want peace and life, we don’t want to die. It is not fair. We
came to life to live and struggle to lead a good life, away from war and fear.
So can’t you help?
teenagers are running from their death, seeking life. They only want life in
another land. A life with the smile of happiness on its face. God gave the
humans a big land, this land is for everyone wanting peace.
Please, this is a message from a child wanting peace, help us, do not deport
Palestinians back to suffering, and don’t allow death to attack us while we are
living, we all belong to God, and God doesn’t want this to happen. Take the tear
from our eyes, and replace it with a smile that our heart and mind miss!
The story of Rafat, Palestinian from a refugee camp in Occupied
My suffering is long, painful, and continuous, especially in the last decade
where life became very difficult and full of dangers every step of the road.
Simply, the human being’s life is unsecured and in danger even inside his own
home, especially for us as residents of area “C” which is under full Israeli
During the first Intifada, I was riding my bicycle and going back home to Al-Fawar
refugee camp (Hebron) where I live with my family. At the camp outskirts,
Israeli soldiers stopped me and interrogated me. Then they ordered me to climb a
high voltage power post and take down a Palestinian flag from the top of that
post. I refused to do so because of my incapability of climbing the post and
because of the danger the high voltage might impose on my life. At that point
all the soldiers started beating me, kicking me at once in all and every part of
my body with no discrimination. One of them started pulling me from my hair with
my face downward and kept pulling toward their armed vehicle. During that, a
sharp object hit me in the left side of my face, causing a deep 13 cm long cut.
I started bleeding and lost a lot of blood which covered my face, head and
clothes. The soldiers left me alone on the road side after half an hour of
continuous bleeding under a hot sun.
My suffering continued in attempts to provide the necessary supplies for my
family since I am the only person to provide for them as my father is sick and
unable to work since 1993. I worked in a bookstore in Jerusalem. The 55 km
distance, which in normal circumstances takes about an hour, always takes more
than 3 hours (each way) because of the many military checkpoints and sand
shelters. This is in addition to the expected interrogations, beatings, and
arrest, which could be for no reason but depending on the situation and the mood
of the soldier at the checkpoint in that specific day. I would be very
reasonable if I say that I might be arrested, beaten, interrogated, or even
killed if the soldier mood is not that good due to an argument with his
girlfriend that day. And this is what happened to me last year when I was
stopped among four others at a stationary checkpoint for Israeli army near
Bethlehem. After keeping us for 3 hours in the hot sun, my cellular phone (which
belongs to the company I work for) rang, the owner is trying to find out why I
am late. When I started talking to him, a soldier slammed me, causing the phone
to fall from my hand. When I tried to pick it up, many soldiers started beating
me and ordered me to get inside their armed vehicle. At that point I refused to
do so because I was afraid of them taking me to a rural area and killing me or
at least breaking my bones (since it happens many times with other people). They
kept beating me over and over until I lost consciousness and I woke up in the
experienced many examples of suffering on almost a daily basis and what I
mentioned here is just a briefing of a number of examples.
"Stateless Palestinian refugee, detained and
deported by Immigration Canada, imprisoned in the U.S. and back to the life of
persecution in the refugee camp of Ein El Helweh!"
Ahmed Abdel Majeed is a stateless Palestinian
refugee from the refugee camp of Ein El Helweh. Ahmed arrived in Canada on March
31st 2001 and claimed refugee status. He is now back in the refugee camp of Ein
El Helweh after spending days in the Clinton County Jail in the U.S.
After Ahmed was released from prison for a
posting of $US 10,000 bond, he was then deported to the life of persecution in
the refugee camp of Ein El Helweh, a life he has attempted to escape from over
Ahmad was born stateless and unprotected, into
the misery and hopelessness of a Palestinian refugee camp. He, amongst other
Palestinian refugees, has no civil or political rights in Lebanon. He is barred
from working in over 78 professions, cannot own or inherit property, is subject
to I.D. checks every time he enters or exits the camp, and has no access to
public healthcare or education.
Ahmed came to Canada looking for a life and a
future. After struggling to stay in Canada, advocating for both himself and
fellow Coalition members, he found himself in detention in Laval, in prison in
the United States and finally back in the refugee camp he tried to escape.
In Canada, as a result of his refused refugee
claim, Ahmed had been forced to live underground, without access to basic
services such as health care and education. Ahmed remained in Canada due to
well-founded fears of returning to that which he initially fled, a life of
statelessness without any basic civil and human rights and facing daily dangers.
Ahmed's life inalterably changed when at around
10 a.m on Tuesday November 4th 2003 four Canadian Immigration agents picked him
up, handcuffed him and took him to detention. Ahmed then called his fellow
Coalition members, who immediately went to Citizenship & Immigration Canada's
main offices. They secured a meeting with René D'Aoust, Director of
Investigations and Removals at CIC offices in Montreal.
In this meeting Mr. D'Aoust assured members of
the Coalition that Ahmed would not be deported from Canada
before 48 hours and that he would have his Detention Hearing. Mr. D’Aoust told
the members of the Coalition: "we are well aware we are not dealing with cargo
here but with the lives of human beings". Unfortunately, Immigration Canada's
actions with Ahmed Abdel-Majeed proved otherwise.
During Ahmed's detention, some MPs brought
Ahmed's story to the attention of the Minister of Citizenship & Immigration,
Denis Coderre, hoping he might intervene to stop the deportation. The Minister,
his parliamentary secretary, his assistant and several Immigration officials
were asked to intervene to stay the deportation of Ahmed Abdel-Majeed. Ahmed was
hoping even until the last seconds before his deportation that someone would
intervene, but unfortunately, nobody did.
During his detention in Laval, Ahmed kept in
constant contact with Coalition and community members. Wednesday evening, Ahmed
was informed that he would have a
detention hearing the next day, at 1 p.m.
Ahmed passed this information along to
Coalition members. Concerned for Ahmed's safety and the possibility of him being
deported prior to his detention hearing, Coalition members gathered at 6 a.m. on Thursday November 6th 2003,
to await Ahmed's phone call. He called confirming he would have his Detention
Hearing at 1 p.m. that afternoon at the Immigration & Refugee Board (IRB).
At around 8:30 a.m. Ahmed called again, this
time with good news: "he was being released". Five carloads of supporters drove
Detention Center to greet Ahmed thinking that the Minister might have
intervened. When they arrived, they were locked out of the Center. The Coalition
waited quietly and peacefully in the parking lot for Ahmed for over 30 minutes.
They received no phone calls and he did not appear. At this time 3 police cars
and one police van arrived, and told Coalition members they must leave or face
arrest. A representative of the Detention Center also came out and reconfirmed
that Ahmed would be attending his Detention Hearing at 1 p.m.
At 12 p.m. Coalition members and supporters of
Ahmed gathered at CIC offices, to stage a sit-in demanding a stay of
deportation. At 1 p.m. 8 supporters and Ahmed's lawyer went to his detention
hearing. When they arrived, they were informed
Ahmed's trial had been cancelled, and he had been returned to Laval Detention Center. Upon contacting the
Laval Detention Center, the Coalition was told that Ahmed was 'somewhere else in
Montreal.' At this same time, Ahmed called and informed the Coalition that he
was at the U.S. border. He had been deported while he, his lawyer and his
supporters were repeatedly told that the deportation would not be taking place
in the morning, and he would be attending the hearing at 1 p.m. Ahmed's friends
and supporters found out later that Ahmed did not misunderstand the Immigration
officials but was in fact lied to by them and told that he was going to be
released at that time.
At around 11 a.m. that day, Ahmed was told by
Canadian Immigration officials that he was leaving Laval Detention Center to attend his bail
hearing in downtown Montreal. Canadian Immigration officials and RCMP officers
handcuffed Ahmed's wrists and ankles together, and fixed his seatbelt for the
trip. Continuously, Ahmed asked the officials where he was being taken. Each
time they answered Montreal. About 30 minutes later, Ahmed saw a sign for New
York State. Panicked, he asked an agent why he wasn't going to his detention
hearing in Montreal.
The agent placed his finger to his lips, indicating for Ahmed to be quiet.
INS officials were waiting for Ahmed at the
Champlain border, where he was taken and imprisoned in Clinton County Jail. INS
places refugees in county jails with prisoners who have criminal charges,
commissioning them 28 000 USD per inmate they hold/year. Ahmed, fleeing to
Canada for asylum from persecution, found himself in jail in the USA, ultimately
On Saturday, November 8, 2003, two members of
the Coalition Against the Deportation of Palestinian refugees went to visit
Ahmed Abdel Majeed in Clinton County Jail, Plattsburgh, USA.
Ahmed was deported to the U.S. as it was
his last port of entry to Canada (he came to Canada to apply for a refugee
status through the U.S. where he had stayed only for a few weeks).
When Coalition members visited Ahmed that
morning, he had come out in a bright orange prisoner jumpsuit. He had lost
noticeable weight and looked as if he hadn't slept for days. Ahmed had yet to
see an INS agent, was not aware of his rights, and felt he would be jailed
indefinitely, as he is a 23 year old, single, Palestinian & Muslim male.
Had Coalition members not been able to pay for
the $10,000 US bond, Ahmed would have been held in the jail until his case was
heard before an immigration judge (the date was unknown) at which time he would
have been transferred to a another prison in the Buffalo area where there was a
possibility he would remain in prison for weeks if not months. Ahmed also risked
being deported administratively before this time. He was only allowed four
visits per week, 30 minutes per visit. Nobody could call the prison to speak to
him; he had to call people collect.
Ahmed's imprisonment had left him miserable and
suspicious. After being repeatedly lied to by Canadian officials, Ahmed did not
trust Immigration agents. He was desperate to leave prison, and Coalition
members had been contacted by his family from overseas, sending him messages to
stay strong and not accept deportation back to the persecutory conditions he
fled from in Lebanon. Ahmed told one of the Coalition members in response to his
family's plea: "I am grabbing on to Hope, like someone who is grabbing on to
Ahmed was one of the most active members of the
Coalition Against the Deportation of Palestinian refugees. He strongly believed
that if people in Canada knew about what they had to go through, it would only
be a question of time until a just solution would be given by Immigration
Canada. The day before his detention by Canadian Immigration officials, he told
a friend: "I sense beautiful days coming ahead" in reference to a possible stay
of their deportation. He was actually detained by Immigration officials while
carrying petitions against their deportation, which he had been distributing.
The deception by Immigration agents, his
detention and quick deportation only reaffirmed the lack of understanding and
callousness of a system that claims to protect persecuted persons. Coalition and
community members reaffirm their commitment to organize and fight for the
regularization of the Palestinian refugees facing deportation.