Former Somali child refugee Abdoul Abdi said Friday he's fearful of being deported to a country he has no connection to, for reasons that are largely not of his own making.
Abdi, who never got Canadian citizenship while growing up in foster care in Nova Scotia, was held by the Canada Border Services Agency after spending five years in prison for multiple offences, including aggravated assault.
In an interview with The Canadian Press, Abdi said he has paid for his mistakes and wants the federal government to halt any attempt to deport him.
The 24-year-old man said he has no remaining ties to the war-torn country, and wants to get on with his life after serving his prison term and be a role model for his daughter.
"They're trying to send me back after my culture has been wiped from me, after my language has been wiped from me, after everything I knew there — all my family and everything was taken from me, they want to send me back," said Abdi from Toronto.
"It's the greatest injustice I've ever seen done to anybody."
The 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.
Abdi said the Department of Community Services neglected him, and now he's suffering the consequences.
"It's not only my fault or my actions that I'm in the spot that I'm in right now," said Abdi.
"Nobody's taking responsibility for what happened to me when I was younger. It's not my fault that at the age of six my family was taken from me. It was their job and they dragged their feet."
Abdi was born in Saudi Arabia in 1993. After his parents divorced, his mother — fearing persecution if she returned to Somalia — fled to Djibouti, where the family obtained refugee status.
His biological mother died in the refugee camp when he was four, and two years later he came to Canada with his sister and aunts.
But shortly after arriving, the children were apprehended by the province of Nova Scotia. Abdi's aunt's efforts to regain custody were rejected, and her attempt to file a citizenship application for the children blocked.
Between the ages of eight and 19, Abdi was moved 31 times, separated from his sister and never completed high school.
He said bouncing from foster homes during his childhood was trying, and that he endured physical and mental abuse. He described it as "very sad and traumatic."
"You don't have any guidance, any family, parents. You're left in these facilities with a bunch of kids that are going through their own hardships in life and their abuses and trauma," he said.
"There's nobody to tell you that there will be a better day."
Abdi fell into trouble with the law and in 2014, and pleaded guilty to four charges: Aggravated assault, theft of a motor vehicle, dangerous driving and assaulting a police officer with a vehicle. He was sentenced to 4.5 years, but had another nine months tacked on for assault charges early in his incarceration.
Halfway through his sentence, he was transferred to a medium-security facility because of good behaviour.
The Canada Border Services Agency "gated" Abdi when he was released from prison earlier this month.
"I was shocked. I had a breakdown," he said. "I know the country they're trying to deport me to. It's beyond anybody's nightmare... People are trying desperately to run away from there and they're trying to send me back."
Abdi has since been released to a halfway house in the greater Toronto area. A deportation hearing has yet to be scheduled.
His lawyer, Benjamin Perryman, continues to fight his deportation in Federal Court.
Perryman has said Abdi was given grossly inadequate care by the province as a foster child and deporting him to Somalia would be unfair.