NEWS
01/17/2018 09:14 EST | Updated 01/19/2018 21:03 EST

Former child refugee set free as he fights deportation to Somalia

TORONTO — Former Somali child refugee Abdoul Abdi has been released from custody as he continues his fight against deportation to a country he has no connection to.

Benjamin Perryman, Abdi's lawyer, says he was released Wednesday morning from the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ont., to a halfway house in the greater Toronto area.

Abdi grew up in foster care in Nova Scotia, but never got Canadian citizenship, and was held by the Canada Border Services Agency after spending five years in prison for multiple offences, including aggravated assault.

Abdi's case has become a rallying point for advocates who say it was wrong for the province to fail to apply for citizenship on his behalf.

Perryman said Abdi told him Wednesday it felt "unreal" to be free after five years, and thanked his supporters and wanted "to say thank you for being given a chance."

No deportation hearing has been scheduled yet.

The lawyer continues to fight Abdi's deportation in Federal Court.

"The Minister also has the power to settle the court case and provide Mr. Abdi with the relief he is seeking, but that has not occurred," Perryman said in an email.

"We are hopeful that the government will stop its efforts to deport Mr. Abdi and that his case can be resolved without having to go to court."

Perryman has said Abdi was given grossly inadequate care by the province as a foster child. He said deporting him to Somalia — a country to which he has no ties and where he would be unable to care for his Canadian-born daughter — would be unfair.

Abdi was six years old when he arrived in Nova Scotia as a refugee. He went to live with his aunt, who didn't speak English, and was soon apprehended by the Nova Scotia government.

Between the ages of eight and 19, Abdi was moved 31 times, separated from his sister and was never granted citizenship. His aunt's efforts to regain custody were rejected, and attempts to file a citizenship application for the children was blocked.