Asylum seeker who walked across border denied refugee status

A 29-year-old Ghanaian man was denied refugee status on Tuesday after the refugee board adjudicator questioned the legitimacy of his legal identification documents.

Immigration and Refugee Board questions legitimacy of Ghanaian man's birth certificate

A 29-year-old Ghanaian asylum seeker walked through a field and across the border into Canada in December. His claim for refugee status was denied on Tuesday. (Canada Border Services Agency)

A 29-year-old Ghanaian asylum seeker's fate will remain in limbo for at least the next 10 months.

On Tuesday, the refugee claimant's application was denied by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.

"He has been accused by the member [of the board] to have had fraudulent identity documents and his identity is not clear," said the claimant's lawyer, Bashir Khan.

"That is entirely incorrect and we disagree."

The man, who has asked not to be identified, says he is gay and that he fears for his safety if he has to return to Ghana. He walked through a field in December to cross the border and make a refugee claim.

At his hearing Tuesday, he presented a copy of his birth certificate, a letter from his cousin who lives in the United States and a sworn affidavit made before a court in Ghana by his sister.

The board member questioned the legitimacy of the birth certificate and denied refugee status.

"He kept saying I am not Ghanaian. I don't understand," said the claimant. 

Khan said his client plans to appeal the ruling and can remain in Canada until his appeal application is reviewed and a new decision is made.

'Is it really fair to make him go through all this when he really is at risk?' asked lawyer Bashir Khan. (CBC)

"He will not be at risk of deportation, but certainly he will live with the mental fear of how much longer, what's going to happen in the end," said Khan.

Forced to marry woman, attacked, stabbed

The asylum seeker said he first realized he was attracted to the same sex when he was 12. He said his father found out and began to lash his bare stomach every time he caught his son with a man. 

He also said his father forced him to marry a woman, with whom he has children.

He said he left Ghana at the end of 2015 after being attacked by a group of men who stabbed him in the stomach and left him lying in the dirt while they went to get shovels to bury him alive.

He was able to get his phone out of his pocket, he said, and call his boyfriend, who helped him flee the country and then left for his own safety. The man said he doesn't know where his boyfriend is now.

From Ghana, he went first to Ecuador and from there north through Colombia and Central America to Mexico. He made a refugee claim in the U.S. in March 2016. He was detained in Pennsylvania for seven months before having his application rejected.

He said he couldn't afford a lawyer, so he had no help to make his case. From there he made his way to Minneapolis and eventually across the Canadian border to Emerson, Man. He's been in Winnipeg waiting to find out if he'll be allowed to stay in Canada since December.

At his hearing Tuesday, he was looking at pictures of his young children before the refugee board member came back with his decision.

After the decision was made, the man said if he has to go back to Ghana he will be killed. 

Khan said he will exhaust every legal option for his client.

"He's gay, he has his freedom to choose his sexual orientation in this country," said Khan.

"Is it really fair to make him go through all this when he really is at risk?"


Jillian Taylor is the Executive Producer of News at CBC Manitoba. She started reporting in 2007 and spent more than a decade in the field before moving behind the scenes. Jillian's journalism career has focused on covering issues facing Indigenous people, specifically missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. She is a born-and-raised Manitoban and a member of the Fisher River Cree Nation.