Canada delays deportation of Saudi asylum seeker after U.N. request: lawyer

FILE PHOTO: An Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officer moves a barrier to let a bus with a family of refugees be escorted from the US-Canada border on Roxham Road in Hemmingford, Quebec, Canada August 3, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi - RC124B1BE470REUTERS/ /File Photo

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada delayed the deportation of a Saudi asylum seeker slated for Wednesday after a United Nations human rights committee asked for time to review the man’s case, his lawyer said.

The delay comes in the midst of a diplomatic row between Canada and Saudi Arabia after Ottawa called for the release of arrested Saudi civil society activists. Riyadh accused Ottawa of interfering in its internal affairs.

The Saudi man, who walked across the Canadian border with the United States earlier this year with his wife and two sons, was ordered deported because he had withdrawn a previous individual asylum claim, his lawyer Anne Castagner said. His lawyers requested that the man not be named in order to protect his safety.

On Wednesday, a letter from the U.N. human rights committee called on Canada to halt the man’s deportation until the committee could make its own decision on the case.

A spokesman for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, who oversees the body that conducts deportations, would not comment on the particulars of the case but said that, in general, “Canada provides time for the committee to take a look at a case” when it asks.

It would be very unusual for Canada not to let the United Nations review a case before someone is deported, Castagner said - especially given Canada’s public castigation of Saudi Arabia’s human rights practices.

The length of the delay in the deportation was unclear. The asylum seeker was scheduled to be flown to Riyadh on Wednesday but was instead taken to a Quebec hospital for “stress-related” reasons, lawyer Stephanie Valois told Reuters in an email.

Canada deported 30 people to Saudi Arabia in the first nine months of last year, and 21 the year before. Last year the country got 362 refugee claims from Saudis.

Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien