Family living in London, Ont., for 5 years fears being deported to Egypt will tear them apart

A man facing life in prison in Egypt for his pro-democracy efforts says he and his family fear they'll be deported and will have to leave their London, Ont., home of five years after being denied refugee status. A spokesperson for the minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada told CBC that Ibrahim's open work permit is valid until March 2023, but it doesn't make the family permanent residents.

Mohamed Ibrahim, 45, was sentenced as a civilian to life in prison by a military court in Cairo

Mohamed Ibrahim on the agony of waiting to be deported

2 days ago

Duration 0:53

Mohamed Ibrahim, 45, is trying to stay in Canada after his family was ordered to be deported to Egypt. Ibrahim faces a life sentence from the military regime for being a member of the Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.0:53

A man who was sentenced in absentia in Egypt to life in prison over his pro-democracy efforts says he and his family are fearful of being deported and forced to leave their London, Ont., home of five years after being denied refugee status in Canada.

"The whole family is feeling anxiety, depression and sadness," said Mohamed Ibrahim.

In recent weeks, Ibrahim said, the family received a deportation order after Canada turned down their attempt for refugee status in 2019.

The 45-year-old works as a medical equipment supplier. On Tuesday, a spokesperson for Sean Fraser, minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), told CBC in an email that Ibrahim applied for an open work permit last November that was approved in March and is valid until March 2023.

But while he's able to work in Canada, it does not make him or his family permanent residents, said Aidan Strickland.

Ibrahim said the entire situation has prompted him and his wife to have daily conversations with their children, who are trying to make sense of a life torn between two countries.

Ibrahim, tried as a civilian by a military court in Cairo, was among 71 people accused of betraying the Egyptian government in a 2016 mass trial.

The documents state Ibrahim faces a life sentence and the equivalent of a $1,370 Cdn fine for being a member of the Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

It briefly formed Egypt's first democratically elected government a year after the 2011 spring uprising, only to be overthrown by the military in a 2013 coup. Since then, the regime has been cracking down on dissidents, jailing thousands of people, including human rights advocates, health-care workers and a Canadian journalist.

'Huge mistake' by lawyer cited for IRB denial

Ibrahim was denied refugee status because, according to the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) decision in the case reviewed by CBC News, his story of attempted arrest and escape from Egypt suffered from a lack of supporting evidence.

For that reason, and for fear of what would happen to the Ibrahims in Egypt should they be deported, CBC News has decided not to publish the other family members' names and to blur out their faces in photos.

Ibrahim said the IRB decision was made because of an error on the part of his lawyer, who didn't submit the Egyptian military court documents showing he was condemned to life in prison by the court in Cairo.

"My lawyer did a huge mistake. She didn't submit this evidence, the life sentence decision," he said, noting the family received the deportation order from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) in the last few weeks.

Canadian-born son to be deported with family

"When I look at my baby child, it's really unfair to remove him from his home country," Ibrahim said of his youngest son, who was born in London.

WATCH | Ibrahim says there's a double standard when it comes to Canada's refugee policy:

The 'double-standard' of Canada's refugee policy

2 days ago

Duration 0:42

Mohamed Ibrahim talks about the double-standard between Canada accepting unlimited refugees from war-torn Ukraine and ordering his family, including his Canadian-born son, deported to Egypt where he faces life in prison for his democratic political beliefs.0:42

Both the CBSA and the IRB declined to comment on the case to CBC News, citing privacy reasons.

It's cold comfort for Ibrahim, who takes issue with the federal Liberal government ordering him and his family back to Canada, given its pledge to take an "unlimited number" of Ukrainian refugees fleeing Russian invasion.

Aiding the Ibrahims' efforts is the southwestern Ontario city's Muslim community.

They've hired a public relations firm on the family's behalf and have engaged in a letter-writing campaign with dozens of community leaders extolling the Ibrahims' community service, including helping Syrian refugees settle in the city.

The Muslim community has also lobbied local Liberal members of Parliament to put pressure on the IRB to reverse its decision. They include Arielle Kayabaga, who represents the Ibrahims' home riding of London West.

Kayabaga said in an email to CBC News on Tuesday that while she cannot discuss specifics of the case due to privacy reasons, she is advocating to press the Ibrahims' case in Ottawa.

"I am aware of Mohamed's case, and have been working closely with him and the community to advocate on this behalf, but currently there is no removal date and he is entitled to a pre-removal risk assessment. We will continue to work with him and the community to advocate on his behalf."

In the meantime, London's Muslim community is lobbying Fraser, who has the rarely used power to overturn the IRB decision with the stroke of a pen.

While that hasn't happened, the deportation order has been stayed until a pre-removal risk assessment can be carried out by IRCC, Strickland wrote in the email to CBC.

She also said IRCC received an application for permanent residency from Ibrahim based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds last August and it's still being processed.

"The government is committed to ensuring that every case is assessed based on its merits, in a fair manner and in accordance with Canada's laws," Strickland wrote.

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