Egyptian Asylum-Seekers in Canada Speak Out Against ‘Islamophobia’ and Unfair Treatment by Border Agency
Attia Elserfy, along with other Egyptian asylum-seekers, has expressed concerns about the treatment they have received from Canada’s Border Services Agency (CBSA). Elserfy and his family fled Egypt in 2018 and arrived in Vancouver with hopes of starting a new life. However, their lives have been put on hold as the CBSA challenges their admissibility as refugees due to their ties to a political party that is outlawed in Egypt.
Elserfy and his wife participated in a hearing in November 2021 but have not received any updates from immigration officials since then. Unable to work, they have had to rely on welfare after their assets were frozen by the Egyptian government. Elserfy expressed his disappointment, stating that it feels like he is still living under the authoritarian regime he escaped from.
New Democrat MP Don Davies joined Elserfy and other Egyptian asylum-seekers in Vancouver to denounce the CBSA’s treatment of recent claimants affiliated with the Freedom and Justice Party. They argue that the CBSA’s actions are fueled by “Islamophobia” and information provided by the Egyptian government, which is leading Canada to withhold protection and causing severe distress and trauma for these families.
Davies criticized the CBSA for misusing the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to deny protection solely based on applicants’ links to a political party. He expressed his dismay that Elserfy, who was a labor movement leader in Egypt and an advocate for democracy, is facing such unfair treatment. As a G7 country and a nation of immigrants and refugees, Davies believes it is unacceptable for people to wait five years for a decision, as it has a destructive impact on families and puts their lives on hold.
The CBSA has not provided any immediate comment on the situation of these asylum-seekers. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act allows Canada to deem a refugee applicant inadmissible if there are reasonable grounds to believe they may have engaged in subversive acts against a democratic government or in terrorism. The Freedom and Justice Party, with which Elserfy and others are affiliated, was dissolved by an Egyptian court in 2014 for its connection to the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Egyptian government, under President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, has labeled the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization and cracked down heavily on its members. Elserfy explained that he was asked to join the Freedom and Justice Party as a labor activist but was not actively involved in the party. He faced pressure from Egyptian authorities to endorse Sissi’s government, and when he refused, he and his family had to evade authorities multiple times before fleeing to Canada.
Elserfy’s three children gained refugee status in March 2022, but the vetting process by the CBSA was so intense that one child developed suicidal thoughts. Elserfy pleaded with federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, stating that if his actions result in one of his children committing suicide, it would be on him. He emphasized the toll this situation has taken on his family’s lives and expressed his desperation.
Davies has taken action by submitting letters to both the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada and Mendicino’s office. He believes that refugees seeking protection in Canada should be treated with dignity and respect, without prolonged periods of uncertainty and insecurity that can have devastating effects on their mental health and well-being.
The plight of these Egyptian asylum-seekers highlights the challenges faced by individuals fleeing political persecution and seeking refuge in Canada. It raises important questions about the fairness of the asylum process and the potential impact of biased information provided by foreign governments. As Canada continues to be a destination for those seeking safety and protection, it is crucial that the system upholds its values of inclusivity and justice.