Why is alleged AQ terrorist Mahmoud Jaballah still here?

I am the grandson of eastern European migrants and am very open to further, if not increased, immigration. We Canadians rightfully see ourselves as a nation generally tolerant of immigration. Yes, there are exceptions as we are seeing now with a certain percentage of us expressing concerns over the links between immigration and terrorism (which is actually minimal despite the topic of this blog) and those who see the ‘irregular migrants’ -i.e. those coming to Canada from the US at non-official border entry points – as queue jumpers. And yes many pundits are predicting that immigration could become a major election issue this year.

Still, we do accept hundreds of thousands of new Canadians every year and these go on to become great citizens who contribute to our economy and nation. We also say no to some people who want to come here for a variety of reasons, and the so-called rejection rate is apparently on the rise. Among the justifications for denying someone a visa to come here are a lack of documentation, concerns over the intention of the visit and any security issues, such as a criminal background.

One would think terrorism allegations would constitute a valid reason to say no. Then again, this has not been shown to work all the time as we have learned, and if a new lawsuit by Mahmoud Jaballah, an alleged Al Qaeda (AQ) terrorist, succeeds we shall be $37 million poorer (we as in taxpayers).

Mr. Jaballah is an Egyptian citizen who arrived in Canada in 1996 on a false Saudi Arabian passport. He and his family claimed refugee status because of alleged persecution by the Egyptian government over those AQ links. He was investigated by CSIS and was later placed on a national security certificate, essentially meaning he posed a threat to our country and should thus be removed. To make a very, very long story short (i.e. 20 years long!), the certificates were quashed by various courts, which also assessed that the ‘evidence’ against Mr. Jaballah was not solid enough to warrant his detention. His lawsuit claims that the government’s investigation was negligent and ‘complicit in Egypt’s human rights abuses’. He also says he has been defamed by the media’s coverage of his case which has ‘made him effectively unemployable’.

This whole thing should never have dragged on for two decades for the simple reason that once information surfaced linking Mr. Jaballah to terrorism – he was tied to the bombings of US embassies in east Africa in 1998 – he should have been removed immediately. A country that cannot make decisions on whom to accept and whom to reject as visitors/citizens is not really a country.

Cases like that of Mr. Jaballah show that our immigration system is badly broken. We have allowed anyone who comes here but whose claim for asylum is rejected to launch appeal after appeal after appeal after appeal ad nauseum. That is how we got to Mr. Jaballah still here after all these years. We are experiencing the same issue with irregular migrants whose acceptance rates for asylum are under 50%: the delays in processing their cases is lasting far too long.

We need to fix what is busted. To this end we must:

  • ensure that we have enough resources in Citizenship and Immigration (CIC) and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to do their jobs efficiently, both at entry points and in Canadian missions abroad;
  • limit appeals drastically: if upon initial review an applicant is still seen as inadmissible, put him/her on a plane stat!;
  • figure out a much better way to use intelligence, where necessary, to support rejection decisions. CSIS intelligence was badly twisted and seen as unreliable and the government dropped the ball by not implementing a usable regime (perhaps to make intelligence collected to evidentiary standard); and
  • accept that some people – actually very few relatively speaking – do not belong here and must not be allowed to remain (hint: this is intended for the ‘No One Is Illegal’ crowd).

The civil servants who toil on immigration matters, and this includes those at CSIS on occasion, do their utmost to help make decisions on applications for visits or residency. They are not inherently racist or monsters or bad people, and I say that based on experience. They perform their duties admirably and have to make tough choices based on what they know and how they know it. We have to allow them to do what we pay them to do.

It is unfortunate that the intelligence on Mr. Jaballah’s links to terrorism was received after his arrival since had it been available before one would think his file would have been closed immediately. That this did not happen is not ideal but that does not mean we should ignore such information as terrorist allegations are indeed serious.

The system did not fail Mr. Jaballah: it failed the integrity of our immigration regime.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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