Another Canadian has been stranded in Kenya—a 25-year-old autistic man—for a leisurely three years. Why? Because some genius at the High Commission decided that he didn’t look like his passport photo, and he wasn’t acting sufficiently autistic. Perhaps they thought his condition was insufficiently evocative of Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, the cinematic gold standard.
OTTAWA — An autistic Canadian man, stranded in Kenya for three years, will soon be allowed to come home, and his lawyer called Thursday for an inquiry into the government’s treatment of citizens stranded abroad.
Passport Canada will give 25-year-old Abdihakim Mohamed a one-way travel document, but not a passport, to return from the East African country.
Mohamed should be back in Canada within a month.
His mother, Anab Issa, had tried to bring him back to Canada from Kenya three years ago but she was told he didn’t look like his passport photo, and that he didn’t seem to be autistic.
On doctor’s advice, Issa had returned to East Africa with her son two years earlier to be closer to extended family to help his condition.
Mohamed’s case is strikingly similar to that of Suaad Hagi Mohamud, the 31-year-old Toronto woman, who gave tearful testimony in Ottawa on Wednesday about her recent three-month confinement in Kenya because Canadian diplomats deemed her an imposter because she did not look like her passport photo.
— Blanchfield, Mike. “Autistic Canadian stranded in Kenya coming home soon.” Canwest News Service, 27 August 2009. [Emphasis mine]
Indeed. Let’s hear what extensive investigation the High Commission mounted in order to determine the young man was insufficiently autistic.
Here’s what I think. At best we have a misguided overly-picky security zealot in the High Commission, or at worst we have somebody who is an active participant in a shakedown scam involving Kenyan airport authorities, among others. (Remember that in the Suaad Hagi Mohamud case, it was KLM staff who solicited a bribe and, being refused, threatened to have her displaced from her flight.) My money is on a shakedown effort. A bureaucrat in the Foreign Service should not be able to arbitrarily sever the ties between you and your country when you are innocent of any crime, guilty only of refusing to reward corruption.
The Canadian public needs a transparent accounting of the wrongdoings, not some internal report that will get buried. Air the dirty laundry, clean out the High Commission in Kenya, and put those responsible behind bars for a few decades. Defrauding Canadians of their citizenship, even in error, is no small matter.