Autistic Somali man denied return to Canada

21 Aug

If true, this is a travesty of justice.

According to a recent story in CBC news, a naturalized Canadian citizen has been stuck in Nairobi for three years. The man, Abdihakim Mohammed, is 25 years old, and autistic.

Here’s the story, in brief: Mr. Mohammed was born in Somalia and emigrated to Canada with his mother in 1990, at about age 6. He is a Canadian citizen. A psychiatrist recommended that he travel back to Somalia with his mother, with the idea that this might improve his communication and social skills.

His mother returned to Canada first, leaving Mr. Mohammed in Somalia. Fearing that he might lose his passport, she kept it in her possession. Officials in Canada took the passport on the grounds that it was in the possession of someone not the owner.

When Mr. Mohammed’s grandmother took him to Nairobi to try to send him back home, he was denied travel. His citizenship card was not enough to convince officials that he is who he claims to be. That was in 2006. He has been unable to leave Nairobi since.

In a classic catch-22, his mother can apply for a passport on his behalf if she can get a court order granting her guardianship. But, in order to do that, Mr. Mohammed must be present in Canada. So, she can bring him home to Canada if she can bring him before a court in Canada first.

Mr. Mohammed has offered to undergo DNA testing to prove his identity.

Note: I wrote a similar post a few days ago, but I managed to overwrite it with a different post. If you have a sense of deja vu, that is why.

10 Responses to “Autistic Somali man denied return to Canada”

  1. Sullivan August 21, 2009 at 19:03 #

    A wanted to add some comments outside of the piece itself.

    This is an important story on its own. A man has been held for years in a place without adequate supports and where he is stigmatized for his nationality and disability. This case needs to be resolved.

    But, it is worth mentioning: this case appears to be somewhat known in the Somali community. I’ve found it on a Somali news site and a number of blogs. Why mention that? Because there are people promoting the idea that there is no autism in Somalia. They push this story to claim that autistic Somalis are only found in the US, and that the cause is vaccines. Well, here is a case of an autstic Somali man born about 1984 who moved to Canada when he was six. Clearly he was not “made autistic” by the American vaccine schedule.

  2. Clay August 21, 2009 at 20:39 #

    “Clearly he was not “made autistic” by the American vaccine schedule.”

    I don’t think anyone was. I’ve run into all kinds of “Catch-22s”, this is one of the worst I’ve ever heard of.

  3. Mike Stanton August 21, 2009 at 21:14 #

    From the links you provided it looks like this is less about autism and more about old fashioned racism and institutional mistrust of migrant communities.

    • Sullivan August 21, 2009 at 21:40 #


      as far as his repatriation problem, I think you are spot-on.

      But, I think the issue of how difficult his life is, stuck in Nairobi, I think that is complicated greatly by his disability. He is stuck in a country where the stigma surrounding his disability is great. His primary support, his mother, is in another country. His local support, his grandmother, is (or was) ill.

      Another Somali native was refused entry to Canada recently. She was delayed six months. Assuming Mr. Mohammed’s story is true, why 3 years? How much of his delay could be caused by a lack of self-advocacy skills?

  4. farmwifetwo August 21, 2009 at 21:49 #

    Not quite.

    She deliberately left him there for 2yrs and for the last 3 tried to get him out. The only way to get out of Somalia is to go to Kenya where the nearest Consulate office is. Kenyan’s and Somalians do not get along.

    Unlike the other Somali woman in Kenya who kissed up to the Toronto socialists and bleeding hearts and got put in the front page of the Toronto Star, and is still there this AUTISTIC person got shoved to the back page and ignored and is already off the front page of the news .

    His Mother has to get an affidavit for him and they’ll issue the paperwork. As it says “he does not have a birth certificate or other identification to prove his identity”. According to this article she still had the passport… so was it confiscated or not??

    Canada isn’t a “free for all” that anyone can cross our borders, do we not get blamed regularly by the USA for being to “socialist” and letting everyone in. Seems to me the republicans still blame us for 9/11 when the terrorists were trained in FLORIDA on US VISA’s.

    I love the fact it says “Cannon can’t keep track of all the files he’s responsible for” WT??? He’s the “boss”, what “boss” does the job of the clerk. If he did nothing would get done and why would you need clerks?? That’s just crap.

    Welcome to the real world…. It’s a mean and nasty place once you leave the comfort of your own borders…

    What people forget is once you leave Canada or your country of citizenship you’re pretty much on your own. The paperwork when I went to the USA says right on it “you can be arrested for no reason and refused access to your embassy”. And that’s the good ole US of A…. who’s sent more than one CANADIAN to be tortured in Middle East Countries….

    Don’t toss stones… I find it amazing you slap at that one b/c it’s front page news and a good slap at the current gov’t…. But where’s your posts about the boy murdered in British Columbia??? Where’s your posts about the boy that wandered off and drowned in the USA??

    Or was this just an attack at Canada’s “Autism” policies??

  5. farmwifetwo August 21, 2009 at 21:59 #

    How much posted here is lies???

    I see my first post was blocked… I suspect this one will be too.

    Just get your facts right… it was less than 3.

  6. farmwifetwo August 21, 2009 at 22:21 #

    I’m impressed that one went through since the other one didn’t.

    A – get your info correct.
    B – where’s your posts on the murdered boy in BC
    C – where’s your posts on the boy drowned in the States
    D – Gotta love as soon as there’s an “autistic” Canada is evil story it’s gotta be true.

    She left him there, she took his passport. 2yrs after he was there they tried to get him out. They had to go to Kenya to do so. How did she expect him to get out of the country without his passport??

    The other one had trouble with the Consulate but being a bleeding heart liberal in a city of bleeding heart liberals she’s still front page news. Your autistic man lasted less than a day.

    It’s not that people don’t care… it’s that (a) things take time and (b) the world is a nasty place outside of your own borders. I’m sorry if he’s still there…. but I don’t know what the immigration policies are… and you and I know people are smuggled all the time. Do you want that?? Do you want whoever, whenever in your country?? Do you not still slam Canada for 9/11 except that those terrorists trained in FLORIDA on US Visas?? But of course its our fault.

    Funny how fast you cast stones about something you know nothing about.

    I don’t pretend to know the story. I don’t know how it got lost in the shuffle. I don’t expect the immigration minister to know about all the people wanting in.. it’s not his job to… he’s the “oversearer”. How’s he to keep track of thousands upon thousands of cases every year.

    There are rules… and even the paperwork that I got when I applied for my passport 4yrs ago said “the US gov’t can arrest you for no reason and refuse you access to your Consulate”.. Then again the US has sent more than one Canadian to be tortured in a Middle Eastern Country just b/c they stopped in NY City and transfered planes.

    Gitmo anyone??

    Personally, when I read about the crap going on with your health care reform… I’d rather live here any day.

    • Sullivan August 22, 2009 at 00:42 #

      “How did she expect him to get out of the country without his passport??”

      Just a guess here (and a good one, I suspect)–she expected to travel back to east Africa with his passport and collect him. She didn’t expect the Candian officials to take the passport away from her.

      The mother didn’t just leave him there, by the way. She left him with his grandmother.

      Funny how fast you cast stones about something you know nothing about.

      I don’t pretend to know the story.

      My guess is that you didn’t see the irony in placing those two sentences together. My guess is you still don’t see the irony, after having the facts pointed out to you.

      You seem to have about 5 subjects in your comment, none of which is fully formed from my perspective.

    • Sullivan August 22, 2009 at 00:47 #


      in three years the Canadian officials could have figured this out one way or another. Leaving a disabled man in the care of his ill grandmother in a city were his origin and his disability are stigmatizing is not good.

  7. K August 21, 2009 at 22:36 #

    Wow, farmwifetwo, that was one of the most jingoistic posts I’ve ever read (the anger was very present. Have you been drinkin’?). The first thing that popped into my mind wasn’t that Canada was bad, it was that this young man and his mother are suffering. Your post is so reminiscent of right wing American bloggers. Good grief, this wasn’t an attack on Canada.

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