Toronto Beach man home after harrowing experience in Kenya

News Aug 15, 2017 by Joanna Lavoie Beach Mirror

A man from the Beach is happy to be home after a frightening experience half a world away.

On June 19, Andreas Katsouris, a political consultant who primarily works overseas, travelled to Nairobi, Kenya, with his colleague John Aristotle Phillips.

The Washington D.C.-based company Katsouris works for, Aristotle Inc., had been retained by the east African country’s opposition party, the National Super Alliance, to work on the election campaign for presidential candidate Raila Odinga, whose father is Kenya’s first vice-president.

A month and a half in, the company’s work had started to pay off and poll numbers were on the rise.

On Friday, Aug. 4, just four days before the contentious election, things turned sour when a group of about six men crowded around Katsouris as he was walking from his apartment complex to a restaurant for dinner.

“They knew who I was and they were looking for me,” he shared during an interview Monday at his home.

Katsouris, who was given a few minutes to call his wife, said the group of men, which seemed to be increasing in size, then removed his cellphones and laptop, and demanded he bring them to his American colleague who was at his apartment in the same complex.

And while the men, which Katsouris said identified themselves as police, were a “bit rough and pushy,” he said they demonstrated no real “outward display of violence.”

Things did get a bit tense once they arrived at Phillips’ apartment when both men, which Katsouris said were not allowed to contact their lawyers or seek assistance from the consulate, protested.

In the end, Katsouris and Philips agreed to pack their bags and were put into separate SUVs for a five-hour drive that concluded at the airport. Once there, they were told they’re being deported because they did not have proper work visas.

Documents explaining the men’s detention were never produced.

Katsouris, who said he feels their deportation was politically motivated, was put on a plane to Frankfurt, Germany. He then took a train to the Netherlands to connect with his wife, Jennifer Bell, and their 14-year-old daughter, who wasn’t initially told about the ordeal. Bell, her sister, and daughter Sophia were vacationing in Holland.

The family arrived home safely to Toronto on Saturday.

Bell, who had visited her husband in Kenya just weeks earlier, initially got word about the situation with her husband and his colleague on Friday evening when she received a call from Phillips’ brother, Dean.

“I was told they’d been taken somewhere and had been detained. That’s all I knew,” said Bell, who said her first thought was that time is of the essence.

One of the first things she did was call her local MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith for assistance.

“He was wonderful. He was so great,” said Bell, who works in public health and has travelled abroad extensively personally and professionally.

Erskine-Smith said he did what he could with the little information that was available.

“All we knew is that Andreas had been detained and had disappeared in Nairobi. I can’t imagine being in (Jennifer’s) shoes,” said Erskine-Smith who then contacted his colleague Omar Alghabra, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs, and got the ball rolling on helping Katsouris get home safely.

“This wasn’t your typical constituent request,” said Erskine-Smith, who often helps people in Beaches-East York with immigration and deportation matters.  

During his captivity, Katsouris said many things crossed his mind.

He wondered if the men were really police officers. At times, he even wondered if he’d make it home alive.

“I had moments of fear, but I pushed them aside by telling myself everything is going to be OK,” he shared, adding once they got on the road he got the feeling that the men didn’t want to hurt him, but just wanted him and his colleague out of the country.

Despite his ordeal, Katsouris said he’ll continue to travel abroad with his work.

“I’m not going to change anything,” he smiled, admitting in the back of his mind he knows situations like the one he went through can happen any time.

“I’ll do this again, for sure. I met some wonderful people, friends and colleague I really admire. It was a really enriching experience and I wouldn’t want to give that up.”

On Aug. 8, incumbent candidate Uhuru Kenyatta, whose father Jomo is that country’s first president, was re-elected.

“The party I was working for does not accept the results. They think they are fraudulent,” Katsouris said.

-with files from Torstar News

Toronto Beach man home after harrowing experience in Kenya

Andreas Katsouris was working on opposition's presidential election campaign

News Aug 15, 2017 by Joanna Lavoie Beach Mirror

A man from the Beach is happy to be home after a frightening experience half a world away.

On June 19, Andreas Katsouris, a political consultant who primarily works overseas, travelled to Nairobi, Kenya, with his colleague John Aristotle Phillips.

The Washington D.C.-based company Katsouris works for, Aristotle Inc., had been retained by the east African country’s opposition party, the National Super Alliance, to work on the election campaign for presidential candidate Raila Odinga, whose father is Kenya’s first vice-president.

A month and a half in, the company’s work had started to pay off and poll numbers were on the rise.

On Friday, Aug. 4, just four days before the contentious election, things turned sour when a group of about six men crowded around Katsouris as he was walking from his apartment complex to a restaurant for dinner.

“They knew who I was and they were looking for me,” he shared during an interview Monday at his home.

Katsouris, who was given a few minutes to call his wife, said the group of men, which seemed to be increasing in size, then removed his cellphones and laptop, and demanded he bring them to his American colleague who was at his apartment in the same complex.

And while the men, which Katsouris said identified themselves as police, were a “bit rough and pushy,” he said they demonstrated no real “outward display of violence.”

Things did get a bit tense once they arrived at Phillips’ apartment when both men, which Katsouris said were not allowed to contact their lawyers or seek assistance from the consulate, protested.

In the end, Katsouris and Philips agreed to pack their bags and were put into separate SUVs for a five-hour drive that concluded at the airport. Once there, they were told they’re being deported because they did not have proper work visas.

Documents explaining the men’s detention were never produced.

Katsouris, who said he feels their deportation was politically motivated, was put on a plane to Frankfurt, Germany. He then took a train to the Netherlands to connect with his wife, Jennifer Bell, and their 14-year-old daughter, who wasn’t initially told about the ordeal. Bell, her sister, and daughter Sophia were vacationing in Holland.

The family arrived home safely to Toronto on Saturday.

Bell, who had visited her husband in Kenya just weeks earlier, initially got word about the situation with her husband and his colleague on Friday evening when she received a call from Phillips’ brother, Dean.

“I was told they’d been taken somewhere and had been detained. That’s all I knew,” said Bell, who said her first thought was that time is of the essence.

One of the first things she did was call her local MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith for assistance.

“He was wonderful. He was so great,” said Bell, who works in public health and has travelled abroad extensively personally and professionally.

Erskine-Smith said he did what he could with the little information that was available.

“All we knew is that Andreas had been detained and had disappeared in Nairobi. I can’t imagine being in (Jennifer’s) shoes,” said Erskine-Smith who then contacted his colleague Omar Alghabra, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs, and got the ball rolling on helping Katsouris get home safely.

“This wasn’t your typical constituent request,” said Erskine-Smith, who often helps people in Beaches-East York with immigration and deportation matters.  

During his captivity, Katsouris said many things crossed his mind.

He wondered if the men were really police officers. At times, he even wondered if he’d make it home alive.

“I had moments of fear, but I pushed them aside by telling myself everything is going to be OK,” he shared, adding once they got on the road he got the feeling that the men didn’t want to hurt him, but just wanted him and his colleague out of the country.

Despite his ordeal, Katsouris said he’ll continue to travel abroad with his work.

“I’m not going to change anything,” he smiled, admitting in the back of his mind he knows situations like the one he went through can happen any time.

“I’ll do this again, for sure. I met some wonderful people, friends and colleague I really admire. It was a really enriching experience and I wouldn’t want to give that up.”

On Aug. 8, incumbent candidate Uhuru Kenyatta, whose father Jomo is that country’s first president, was re-elected.

“The party I was working for does not accept the results. They think they are fraudulent,” Katsouris said.

-with files from Torstar News

Toronto Beach man home after harrowing experience in Kenya

Andreas Katsouris was working on opposition's presidential election campaign

News Aug 15, 2017 by Joanna Lavoie Beach Mirror

A man from the Beach is happy to be home after a frightening experience half a world away.

On June 19, Andreas Katsouris, a political consultant who primarily works overseas, travelled to Nairobi, Kenya, with his colleague John Aristotle Phillips.

The Washington D.C.-based company Katsouris works for, Aristotle Inc., had been retained by the east African country’s opposition party, the National Super Alliance, to work on the election campaign for presidential candidate Raila Odinga, whose father is Kenya’s first vice-president.

A month and a half in, the company’s work had started to pay off and poll numbers were on the rise.

On Friday, Aug. 4, just four days before the contentious election, things turned sour when a group of about six men crowded around Katsouris as he was walking from his apartment complex to a restaurant for dinner.

“They knew who I was and they were looking for me,” he shared during an interview Monday at his home.

Katsouris, who was given a few minutes to call his wife, said the group of men, which seemed to be increasing in size, then removed his cellphones and laptop, and demanded he bring them to his American colleague who was at his apartment in the same complex.

And while the men, which Katsouris said identified themselves as police, were a “bit rough and pushy,” he said they demonstrated no real “outward display of violence.”

Things did get a bit tense once they arrived at Phillips’ apartment when both men, which Katsouris said were not allowed to contact their lawyers or seek assistance from the consulate, protested.

In the end, Katsouris and Philips agreed to pack their bags and were put into separate SUVs for a five-hour drive that concluded at the airport. Once there, they were told they’re being deported because they did not have proper work visas.

Documents explaining the men’s detention were never produced.

Katsouris, who said he feels their deportation was politically motivated, was put on a plane to Frankfurt, Germany. He then took a train to the Netherlands to connect with his wife, Jennifer Bell, and their 14-year-old daughter, who wasn’t initially told about the ordeal. Bell, her sister, and daughter Sophia were vacationing in Holland.

The family arrived home safely to Toronto on Saturday.

Bell, who had visited her husband in Kenya just weeks earlier, initially got word about the situation with her husband and his colleague on Friday evening when she received a call from Phillips’ brother, Dean.

“I was told they’d been taken somewhere and had been detained. That’s all I knew,” said Bell, who said her first thought was that time is of the essence.

One of the first things she did was call her local MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith for assistance.

“He was wonderful. He was so great,” said Bell, who works in public health and has travelled abroad extensively personally and professionally.

Erskine-Smith said he did what he could with the little information that was available.

“All we knew is that Andreas had been detained and had disappeared in Nairobi. I can’t imagine being in (Jennifer’s) shoes,” said Erskine-Smith who then contacted his colleague Omar Alghabra, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs, and got the ball rolling on helping Katsouris get home safely.

“This wasn’t your typical constituent request,” said Erskine-Smith, who often helps people in Beaches-East York with immigration and deportation matters.  

During his captivity, Katsouris said many things crossed his mind.

He wondered if the men were really police officers. At times, he even wondered if he’d make it home alive.

“I had moments of fear, but I pushed them aside by telling myself everything is going to be OK,” he shared, adding once they got on the road he got the feeling that the men didn’t want to hurt him, but just wanted him and his colleague out of the country.

Despite his ordeal, Katsouris said he’ll continue to travel abroad with his work.

“I’m not going to change anything,” he smiled, admitting in the back of his mind he knows situations like the one he went through can happen any time.

“I’ll do this again, for sure. I met some wonderful people, friends and colleague I really admire. It was a really enriching experience and I wouldn’t want to give that up.”

On Aug. 8, incumbent candidate Uhuru Kenyatta, whose father Jomo is that country’s first president, was re-elected.

“The party I was working for does not accept the results. They think they are fraudulent,” Katsouris said.

-with files from Torstar News