Manitoba

Fingerless asylum seeker makes his case to stay in Canada Tuesday

Razak Iyal and his friend, Seidu Mohammed lost fingers and toes to frostbite during a Christmas Eve walk across the border into Canada. Tuesday, Iyal will finally have his hearing before the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.

Razak Iyal nearly froze to death walking over the border during a storm on Christmas Eve

Razak Iyal's initial hearing before the Immigration and Refugee Board was delayed for administrative reasons. He'll finally make his case to stay in Canada June 13. (Brett Purdy/CBC News)

Their winter walk across the border into Canada shone a spotlight on asylum seekers fleeing the United States after the election of Donald Trump.

Razak Iyal and his friend, Seidu Mohammed lost fingers and toes to frostbite during that Christmas Eve journey.

On Tuesday, Iyal will finally have his hearing before the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.

"I'm happy that the day is coming," he said last week.

"Every time I sit down and think about it, it's still following me. All the people who are looking for me. They are still looking for me here, so when I sleep I always think about it, always dream about it."

Iyal won't explain exactly why he's in danger in Ghana, saying he'll tell the whole story at his refugee board hearing.

He does say he was facing jail, torture or even death at the hands of a rich and powerful member of Parliament representing his region.

"The police in Ghana, they are very corrupt. If you don't have money to give the police, you can't get justice over there," he told CBC News in February.

Iyal has risked — and lost — a lot for a chance to stay in Canada as a refugee: all the fingers on both hands and part of one thumb.

It makes the simple things in life difficult, including eating and getting dressed.

But Iyal says it will all be worth it if the Refugee Board accepts his claim.
Seidu Mohammed and Razak Iyal almost froze to death walking across the border into Manitoba from the United States. Arriving with frostbite after a seven-hour trek across snow-covered farmers' fields, the Ghanaian men both had all their fingers amputated. (Brett Purdy/CBC News)

"Right now I can say I'm very very ready ... to prove to the judge what happened to me. And all the proof that I was supposed to give to them, I give it to the lawyer and they give it to the judge," he said.

"We've been praying."

Seidu Mohammed, the man he made the trek with, had his hearing in March.

He's already been accepted as a refugee based on the risk of persecution on grounds of sexual orientation if he's returned to Ghana.

Mohammed says that has changed everything for him.

"I was so happy that I got a chance to stay here," he said.

"I can move on with my life and make sure I can start doing something, [like] work."

Iyal's hearing was also originally scheduled for March, but it was postponed until now because of a backlog in security clearance checks and not enough board members to hear all the recent cases of asylum seekers.

The Refugee Board is trying to be more efficient.

It now has an expedited claims process for people from countries such as Syria, Burundi and Egypt.

Starting this month, it also allows straightforward claims to have a shorter hearing.

And, it's hiring more board members.

Iyal doesn't know if he'll get a decision Tuesday or if he'll have to wait for weeks to get a letter in the mail.

He's just grateful for a chance to make his case.

Fingerless asylum seeker makes his case to stay in Canada

6 years ago
Duration 1:43
Their winter walk across the border into Canada shone a spotlight on asylum seekers fleeing the United States after the election of Donald Trump. Razak Iyal and his friend, Seidu Mohammed lost fingers and toes to frostbite during that Christmas Eve journey. Today, Iyal will finally have his hearing before the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.

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