Non-Status Algerian Takes Refuge In Quebec City Church

Wednesday, February 18, 2004 -- This morning at 11am, Mohamed Cherfi, a
non-status Algerian, announced that he has taken refuge inside a Quebec
City church in order to prevent a certain deportation. Mohamed's full
statement, translated from the French, is included below.

Mohamed Cherfi has been an outspoken member of the Action Committee of
Non-Status Algerians. His organizing efforts and tireless work have helped
win status for hundreds of his fellow non-status Algerians. Still, he was
refused status by Immigration Quebec because he was not adequately
"integrated" into Quebec society. Mohamed has lived in Quebec for six
years and is a French speaker. He has clearly been targeted for removal
from Canada due his political outspokenness, and his role as an articulate
spokesperson for non-status Algerians and other refugees.

While Mohamed has taken sanctuary, dozens of other non-status Algerians
still face removal in the coming months. The Action Committee of
Non-Status Algerians continues to remain active in fighting for their
three main demands on behalf of all non-status Algerians: 1) The
regularization of all non-status Algerians; 2) An end to deportations; 3)
A return of the moratorium on removals to Algeria.

A support team for Mohamed Cherfi has formed in Quebec City, comprised of
local activists. They can be reached by e-mail at solimo2004@yahoo.fr.
Messages of solidarity and support are appreciated.

-- The No One Is Illegal Collective (Montreal)
nooneisillegal@tao.ca
----------------------------------------------

Statement by Mohamed Cherfi
February 18, 2004
Saint-Pierre United Church, Quebec City
(translated from the original French)

I, Mohamed Cherfi, have taken sanctuary in the Saint-Pierre United Church
in Quebec City, rather than presenting myself for an appointment at the
offices of Immigration Canada in Montreal last February 10. I risked being
put into detention due to my refusal to collaborate with a deportation
that would put my life in danger. It is not with a cheerful heart that I
have come to take this step; it was the only option possible so that I
could continue to try to convince the public and immigration authorities
of the need for protection, while at the same time assuring my personal
safety. The Canadian immigration authorities had a warrant for my
deportation to the United States, the country from which I entered Canada.
The American authorities would put me in detention until my deportation to
Algeria.

As asserted in a letter by Lucie Lemonde -- the Vice-President of the
International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (la Fédération
internationale des ligues des droits de l'Homme, FIDH) -- recognizing my
need for protection: my deportation to Algeria via the United States will
put my life in danger due to the systematic violation of human rights
(disappearances, torture, imprisonment) that have taken place, principally
against the defenders of human rights. For having been the spokesperson of
the Action Committee of Non-Status Algerians for almost two years, and
having publicly expressed criticisms against the Algerian regime, I am
exposed to serious risks.

The report that the FIDH will submit to the UN Human Rights Commission in
March, brings attention to the dramatic situation in Algeria, where a
civil conflict that has lasted for more than ten years has resulted in
150,000 deaths and more than 7000 disappearances. The state of emergency
continues, which allows for the systematic violation of human rights.
Moreover, the Algerian authorities have refused access to the UN Special
Rapporteur on Human Rights, the FIDH and other organizations, so that they
may investigate the situation.

I asked for political refuge in Canada as a conscientious objector, having
refused to do compulsory military service that would have forced me into
the civil conflict in Algeria. Like numerous other people who are refugees
from war and do not manage to have their political status recognized, I
suffered a refusal as a refugee claimant. Still, I was temporarily
protected from removal by a moratorium on deportations to Algeria put into
effect by the Canadian government between March 1997 and April 2002, due
to the assertive presence of 1060 asylum seekers of Algerian origin. In
the face of our imminent deportation, we came together as the Action
Committee of Non-Status Algerians, of which I was the main spokesperson.

In October 2002, the Quebec and Canadian immigration authorities finally
put into place a procedure to regularize Algerians who were no longer
protected by the moratorium. However, this process was based on the
process of selection, and not on the assurance of protection from
deportation to a country in conflict. Moreover, the selection process was
based on criteria linked to an evaluation of our ability to "integrate"
into Quebec society, a very ambiguous and arbitrary process, in particular
for war refugees who have lived for years without status and with the
continual anxiety of being eventually deported.

I have found myself, at the end of the day, among the people refused
within the framework of the selection procedure, with the explanation that
I lack "integration" into Quebec society. Even while the Quebec
Immigration Minister -- Michelle Courchesne -- consented to review my file
and the file of other refused claimants, and even before her negative
response was conveyed to me on January 22, I received a notice from
federal authorities that would begin the process of my deportation.

I ask today that the Canadian and Quebec immigration authorities give me
protection by according me the status to live in Canada, in consideration
of the civil conflict in Algeria and the risk of my deportation to Algeria
via the United States. These risks are linked to the fact that I was the
spokesperson of the Action Committee of Non-Status Algerians for almost
two years, and in Algeria, the defenders of human rights are prime
targets.

-- Mohamed Cherfi