An Algerian man who came to Canada seeking asylum from political persecution â€” but ended up spending years in a United States prison â€” won his refugee claim Wednesday and the right to stay in Canada.
But Benemar Benatta, who fled Algeria fearing political persecution, said the process has been a nightmare from start to finish.
Benatta arrived in Canada in 2001 just days before the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.
The day after the attacks, Canadian officials handed him over to American authorities on the suspicion that he might have been involved.
His lawyer, Nicole Chrolavicius, said the FBI cleared him within weeks, but Benatta still wound up spending five years in a U.S. jail.
“We now have confirmation that Canada, when officials illegally transported Mr. Benatta across the border on September 12, 2001, they transported a refugee across the border â€” not just a refugee claimant â€” that is to say, someone who it had been determined was incredibly vulnerable and feared for his life and his safety in his home country,” said Chrolavicius.
“And rather than granting him due process and granting him a hearing, Canadian officials simply stuck him in the back of a car and drove him across the border illegally.
“If Mr. Benatta had been granted a hearing on the merits of his refugee claim on Sept. 12, 2001, he would’ve been granted refugee status in Canada at that time. We now know that. Instead what happened? …[H]e languished in prison for five years in the U.S.”
While grateful for the right to remain in Canada, Benatta plans to continue a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service, the RCMP and the Canadian Border Service Agency, claiming his treatment at the hands of Canadian immigration officials was illegal and cost him five years of his life.