A man who died last week under mysterious circumstances while detained by Canadian immigration authorities has been identified as a mentally ill Somali refugee who had spent three years in prison with little prospect for release.
Canada Border Services Agency had refused to name 39-year-old Abdurahman Ibrahim Hassan, but his family and immigration watchdog groups have publicly identified him.
Hassan, who was also a diabetic, died in the early hours of June 11 in hospital in Peterborough, Ont., where he had been taken under police escort for unspecified treatment.
The province’s special investigations unit, which has been probing the death because police were involved, said the man had become “agitated” and died after being restrained by police and medical personnel.
Sources said Hassan, who had developed severe schizophrenia, had been accepted as a refugee to Canada in the mid-1990s. He was jailed following an assault conviction in 2012, and then transferred to immigration custody.
A “danger opinion” concluded he posed a threat to the Canadian public and he was declared inadmissible notwithstanding his refugee status, and incarcerated in prison in eastern Ontario three years ago subject to deportation to Somalia.
However, given the chaotic and dangerous situation in Somalia, it appeared unlikely Hassan would be either deported or released — in effect, he was being indefinitely detained in a move that human-rights and legal groups decried as draconian and contrary to international law.
Other immigrants imprisoned without trial or charges in two Toronto jails, along with their families, staged a one-day hunger strike Friday to protest Hassan’s treatment.
The watchdog group End Immigration Detention Network also called for a coroner’s inquest into Hassan’s death.
“We’re wondering who’s next. Am I next?” said one immigration detainee, in detention for five months, who took part in the protest fast. “We’re on immigration hold, you don’t know what’s gonna happen so you have the fear of losing your life, being assaulted or being forced to get on a plane.”