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Abused Nigerian woman gets another chance at refugee status

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Oluyemisi Akinbinu is again waiting to find out whether she'll get refugee protection. Her case was heard in court again Tuesday and the federal court justice has reserved her decision.

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Oluyemisi Akinbinu is again waiting to find out whether she'll get refugee protection. Her case was heard in court again Tuesday and the federal court justice has reserved her decision. Photo Store

An abused Nigerian woman who was denied refugee protection after she was recruited to work at a Manitoba mental hospital had her day in court Tuesday.

Federal Court Justice Elizabeth Heneghan reserved her decision in the case of Oluyemisi Akinbinu, 48.

Her refugee claim was heard last fall by Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada member Gordon McRae, a retired RCMP officer who has a high rejection rate for refugee claims.

Last fall, The Free Press reported on her case and on a study that found, more than anything, it's the person hearing the case who determines whether refugees will be allowed to stay in Canada.

The 2012 study by Osgoode Hall law professor Sean Rehaag found "vast disparities" in refugee-claim rates for Immigration and Refugee Board members in 2011. McRae granted refugee status in just 14 per cent of the cases he heard, the study found.

Rehaag also looked at 23,000 applications for appeal by rejected claimants to Federal Court and found "troubling inconsistencies."

Akinbinu came from Nigeria to work at the Selkirk Mental Health Centre in 2003, seven years after being beaten and run out of her home by an abusive husband and mother-in-law for not giving birth to a son.

She testified her husband, a doctor, took another wife and forced her out of a medical clinic they started.

Akinbinu, who was pregnant, was left penniless to care for their young daughter and the child she was carrying — a son.

As a single mom in Nigeria, Akinbinu was a social outcast and struggled with poverty. She heard about the Selkirk Mental Health Centre recruiting nurses. She planned to start over in Canada with the hope of a better life for her and her two children, whom she left with her elderly parents.

Akinbinu had never dealt with the past abuse, and the stress of being away from her kids and practising nursing in a new country was too much — she failed her nursing exam.

She extended her visa working as a caregiver, but when she’d exhausted that option she applied for refugee status in May 2012.

She testified at her refugee protection hearing in the fall she is afraid her life is still in danger if she returns to Nigeria.

McRae disagreed and denied her claim for refugee protection. Akinbinu’s lawyer Bashir Khan argued McRae was being unreasonable and ignored her evidence.

 

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

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