Canada says it won’t deport Somali journalist

Liban Dirie, also known as Ilyaas Maow Nikki Tundel | MPR News 2011

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The Canadian government has decided not to send a prominent former member of Minnesota’s Somali community back to Somalia.

Liban Dirie, also known as Ilyaas Maow, moved to Minnesota from Canada in 1998 looking for asylum. The United States rejected his asylum request in 2005, citing a decades-old Canadian charge of domestic assault against his ex-wife.

Dirie had allegedly been threatened with death by al-Shabab, the Somali terrorist organization. Dirie had made videos denouncing the organization and urging young men to resist al-Shabab’s recruitment efforts.

After failing to secure resident status in the United States, Dirie returned to Canada in February 2014 to clear his immigration record. He turned himself in to authorities and pleaded guilty to charges that were more than 20 years old. Dirie served a month in jail.

In June, the Canadian government informed Dirie that he was “criminally inadmissible to Canada” and faced possible deportation to Somalia. But this week, Dirie received notice that the government had reviewed his immigration case and decided not to refer it for an “admissibility hearing,” which could have resulted in his deportation.

“I can sleep peacefully now without worrying about the dangers that I’d have faced had I been deported to Somalia,” Dirie said from Ottawa.

When news of Dirie’s possible deportation was first reported, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., got involved and contacted the Canadian Embassy in Washington. Members of Minnesota’s Somali community also reached out to the Canadian consulate in Minneapolis.

Dirie, a journalist and founder of the online Mogadishu Times, shut down the news site in early 2014 after he moved back to Canada. At the time, he said his uncertain immigration status prevented him from maintaining the site. He has since relaunched it.

“I’m a free man,” he said. “I’m happy that I got a second chance.”

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