First known Australian refugee sues Canadian officials over asylum process
Canada First known Australian refugee sues Canadian officials over asylum process
Stevan Utah, an Australian police informant who infiltrated the Bandidos bikie gang, alleges he was left in legal limbo for years
An Australian police informant who infiltrated an outlaw motorcycle gang and later became a refugee in Canada â" believed to be the first Australian g ranted asylum by a foreign country â" has launched a lawsuit against Canadian officials, alleging that the drawn-out process of seeking asylum left him in legal limbo for years.
The $2.55m lawsuit, filed in Canadaâs federal court in June, is directed at the countryâs immigration department, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and two officers involved in the file.Bandidos informant granted refugee status by Canada after cover blown in Australia Read more
Stevan Utah said Canadian officials took nearly a decade to decide on his asylum claim, a process that was initially hindered by their failure to consider his case seriously. âWhen I first came here, the CBSA not only could not believe that a white Australian could be a refugee, they wouldnât entertain it,â Utah told the National Post.
He fled Australia in 2006, after facing attempts on his life by the Bandidos bikie gang.
Canadian officials accepted his asylum claim last y ear, noting that Utah appeared to have been abandoned by authorities in Australia after his cover was blown. In their decision, Canadaâs refugee board noted Utah would likely face âa serious risk to his lifeâ if he returned to Australia.
Months later he filed a legal challenge accusing Canadian officials of âpure, sheer incompetenceâ that saw his asylum request stretch into a years-long odyssey.
âWe say that was negligent at the very least and as a result he has suffered because he has been in this legal limbo, if you like, for that period of time,â William Klym, one of Utahâs lawyers in Canada, told the National Post.
As he waited years for his asylum application to be heard, Utah did not have permission to work, open a bank account, obtain a driverâs license or access healthcare, according to court documents. Utah claims the situation left him battling post-traumatic stress disorder as well as depression.
The lawsuit seeks $1.35m in d amages for lost income, $1m in general and punitive damages and a further $200,000 linked to the effects on his mental health, according his lawyer. âItâs not [supposed] to be a process where somebody is left on ice for nine and a half years,â said Klym.
The Canadian government has countered that Utahâs criminal history, which included involvement in an Australian murder case and fraud charges in Canada that were later withdrawn, required officials to carry out a comprehensive investigation before his application could be considered.
According to Duncan McNab, who documented Utahâs story in the book Dead Man Running, Utah was never a full member of the Bandidos, but knew the Australian national president of the club, making him a valuable source of information for authorities.
In 2000, McNab said Utah arrived on the scene shortly after a 54-year-old man had been killed by Bandidos members. According to McNab, Utah helped dump the body some 1,000km away .
In 2004, Utah was charged with the murder, but the charges were later dropped. Utah later led investigators to the body of the man, joining forces with police to infiltrate the Bandidos network, said McNab.
In their statement of defence, Canadian officials said it took them until August 2009 to confirm that no further charges would be laid against Utah in connection with the killing.
The process was again delayed soon after, this time over multiple fraud charges Utah was facing in Canada, according to court documents. The charges were later withdrawn after ârestitution was paidâ, the statement of defence noted.
The Canadian government argued that the years-long timeline was inevitable. âGiven the complexity of the plaintiffâs situation, his claims that his life was at risk, and the ongoing criminal investigations and charges and previous criminal history their actions were justified,â the statement of defence alleges.
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