The young Chinese refugee claimant who boarded a plane to Canada disguised as an old man has been ordered to stay in detention because he is a flight risk if released, the Immigration and Refugee Board ruled Wednesday.
The man took an Air Canada flight to Vancouver from Hong Kong in October wearing an elaborate silicone mask of an elderly white male, which he donned during the flight to the alarm of some fellow passengers.
The case made international headlines after an internal border agency memo was leaked to media, and the attached photos of the man with and without the mask on went viral on the Internet.
The man’s identity is shielded by a publication ban, and he appeared at Wednesday’s hearing only by telephone.
Daniel McLeod, the man’s lawyer, claimed his client’s parents are under investigation in China by police in the Public Security Bureau because their son’s identity was widely reported in the media. McLeod also accused Canadian authorities of divulging information to the Chinese government in the process of investigating his client’s identity.
Jim Murray, the Canada Border Services Agency representative, told the Board the officers verified the man’s identity and said his documents are “probably authentic.”
“But obtaining a genuine document by fraudulent means, such as bribery … is common,” Murray said.
During the hearing, Murray read out the initial interview with the migrant detailing how he made his way to Vancouver with the help of human traffickers.
According to a transcript, the man was met at the Hong Kong airport by an individual identified only as Mr. X. The man told CBSA he was given a passport, boarding pass and a membership card, which turned out to be a travel rewards card.
Murray said both men boarded the plane. During the night period of the flight, Mr. X ordered the migrant to put on the mask and clothes.
The migrant said he did not hand cash to the smuggler at the time, but was told he would be contacted for payment once in Canada. Murray argued that evidence means the man has been co-operating with human traffickers, and he might try to flee if released.
Mcleod said he spoke with his client’s parents and was informed they paid $30,000 to the smugglers. He added the man has friends in Ontario who offered to provide accommodation once he’s released.
Refugee board adjudicator Lynda Mackie said she was prepared to order the man’s release on a “significant” cash bond that would exceed $5,000. McLeod said he will contact the Ontario friends to ask if they’ll put up the funds.
Mackie had earlier expressed concern of the man’s flight risk.
“The sad fact is that — and I am not for a minute suggesting this applies to the person concerned — many people come to this country … to make a refugee claim,” she said, “and once they are released they are never heard from again. This unfortunately in the past applies to many people from China.”
The man’s next hearing is scheduled for early January.