Canada’s ‘stateless’ terror suspect couldn’t be deported nine year ago

Matthew Coutts
Daily Brew

Four days after two Canadian residents were arrested in connection to an alleged terrorist plot to derail a train on Canadian soil, disturbing details of their checkered pasts continue to be revealed – including revelations that Canada tried to deport one of the men nine years ago.

Raed Jaser and Chiheb Esseghaier were arrested on Monday and have made primary court appearances, but remain in custody.

Esseghaier told a judge on Wednesday that Canada's criminal code was not a "holy book" and therefore not perfect.

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Sources told the Toronto Star that Esseghaier met with an al-Qaeda operative before moving to Canada in 2009, under a student visa. Jaser, meantime, has been living in Canada for 20 years after his family moved here as refugees.

But as the National Post reported, the Canadian government attempted to deport Jaser in 2004, but was unable to remove him from the country because there was nowhere to send him.

Jaser is a Palestinian who was born in the United Arab Emirates and never received citizenship in that country. He and his family were considered "stateless," and moved first to Germany and later Canada, where they sought refugee status.

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Jaser was arrested in 2004 for allegedly working illegally under various aliases, but could not be deported because he belonged to no country.

“I am not a citizen of the United Arab Emirates, I can’t be,” the Post quotes him as telling the Immigration and Refugee Board in 2004, based on a transcript. “I am a Palestinian by blood, that does not give me any rights whatsoever in my place of birth.”

The Canadian Council of Refugees says there are some 15 million stateless people in the world, and considered displaced Palestinians one of the largest groups.

They explain the situation thusly:

Palestinians represent the largest stateless community in the world: more than half of the eight million or so Palestinians are considered to be de jure stateless persons.  Partly because they are stateless, Palestinian refugees are treated more harshly than other  refugees.  For example, Palestinians recently forced out of Iraq have not been admitted into Syria but instead are trapped in dangerous and desolate camps on the border.  Despite a special appeal by the United Nations, few countries have stepped forward to offer them resettlement.

The Post's report suggests Jaser had remained in a state of "long-term limbo" until he received permanent citizenship. He was denied citizenship based in part on a criminal history.

This of course says nothing about the guilt or innocence of either suspect. Just more bizarre details in an increasingly bizarre story.