Awaiting a refugee

The Diocese of Montreal in the Anglican Church of Canada has sponsored more than 1,000 refugees in the last 25 years but one Algerian who is still in custody at Guantanamo has an offer from the diocese to sponsor him to come to Canada as a refugee.

The Anglican Journal reports:

Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said Canadian officials would have to have access to interview Mr. Djamel Ameziane first. The current hold-up, she said, seems to be that the Americans are waiting until they have reviewed all the prisoners’ cases. “No one has formally and officially said that it is waiting for the U.S. to do their internal review but … all signs seem to point to” that cause for the delay, Ms. Dench said. “Once they’ve done the reviews, then they’ll be starting to think about ‘how do we find solutions for all of the people in Guantánamo and how do we involve these different other countries that might play a role?’”

Bishop Barry Clarke decided to sponsor Mr. Ameziane as a part of an ecumenical partnership with the Presbyterian Church in Montreal. “There’s an injustice here,” he said, noting that one the Five Marks of Mission in the Anglican Communion is changing unjust structures in society.

The Anglican Journal says that Mr. Ameziane has been imprisoned in Guantánamo since 2002, but has never been charged with a crime. According to information from the Center for Constitutional rights in New York where lawyers have taken on his case, he is an ethnic Berber who fled Algeria 17 years ago. He came to Canada but was denied refugee status and then traveled to Afghanistan. “As a foreigner in a land soon torn apart by conflict, he was an easy target for corrupt local police who captured him while he was trying to cross the border into Pakistan. Mr. Ameziane was then sold to U.S. military forces for a bounty,” his lawyers say.

Mr. Ameziane fears his life would be in danger returning Algeria with the stigma of having been accused of terrorist-related activities and would like to come to Canada because he has family in Quebec, said Bishop Clarke.

“People say to me ‘Can you really guarantee that he wasn’t a terrorist?’ Well, there’s no guarantees in any thing, but on the other hand I keep telling people ‘We’ve done our homework. It’s not something that is just a nice thing to do,” said Bishop Clarke, commending Presbyterian pastor Glynis Williams for all her work on the matter. He added that the Canadian Council for Refugees and Amnesty International are also working hard to help Mr. Ameziane. “They’re not going to come and present something to me that they haven’t done their homework on.”

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