The family learned Friday that Canadian immigration officials have decided to allow them back into Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. It ends more than four years of exile, which began when the Mississauga family lost its bid for refugee status and was deported to Libya in 2008.
READ MORE: ‘Biased’ immigration officials kept Libyan torture victim from returning to Canada
Deported to torture
Benhmuda, his wife and their four children — including two born in Canada — were deported to Libya when it was still in the grips of dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Benhmuda says he was detained on arrival in Tripoli and jailed for a total of six months on two separate occasions.
During that time, he says prison guards regularly bound his bare feet, strung him up in the air and beat his soles with batons and electrical wires. The family then fled to the island of Malta and spent nine months living in a shipping container before being granted refugee status and moving to an apartment. In February 2011, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees formally asked Canada to resettle them as refugees.
The case came to national prominence when the Toronto Star wrote of the family’s ordeal in June 2011. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney rejected accusations that Canada had deported Benhmuda to torture, and promised to give the family’s request to return to Canada “every humanitarian consideration.”
In October, Federal Court Justice Mary Gleason ruled that Canadian visa officials in the Rome office failed to give the Benhmuda’s a fair hearing. Gleason pointed to evidence indicating that “the entire Rome visa post had reached the conclusion that the applications were to be dismissed, before they had even been submitted.”
Gleason ordered that a different visa office review the case within 90 days and awarded the Benhmuda’s $ 5,000 in court costs. On Friday, Brouwer received an email from Canada’s visa office in Paris saying the application to return to Canada was accepted.
“We are very grateful,” Benhmuda said. “We thank God, we thank the government. We thank everyone who helped us.”
Helping them in their battle was Ingrid Kerrigan, a Mississauga kindergarten teacher who taught two of the Benhmuda children. More than 15,000 people signed her petition asking the government to allow the Benhmuda family back in the country.