The new decade began full of love and hope for one newcomer who faced hatred, death and despair not long ago.
Muhazu Muniru has lost nearly everything in his 33 years: home, family, security, best friend, and his health. In 2020, he has a safe place to live, a romantic partner, happiness, and optimism for long-term health and contributing to society.
"I want to go to school, to work, to have my own family and a beautiful life," said Muniru, who was granted refugee protection in late 2019. "Winnipeg has been good to me. It’s taken care of me."
In 2014, he was run out of Ghana, where gay sex is outlawed and discrimination rampant. His boyfriend, who stayed in Ghana, was beaten to death. Muniru travelled to Brazil, Central America, Mexico, then the United States, where he was struck by another life-threatening challenge.
The splitting headaches and dizziness he suffered weren’t from being worn down by the journey but the early stages of kidney disease. He was hospitalized, then placed in immigration detention in the U.S., where it was determined he faced a "credible fear" of returning to Ghana but couldn’t get an immigration hearing until after 2020.
He was released to wait in New York with a friend’s relatives, but couldn’t afford the cost of medication while receiving dialysis and unable to get a steady job. After U.S. President Donald Trump’s election and anti-immigrant rhetoric ramping up, Muniru feared he’d be returned to Ghana.
Muniru paid a New Yorker US$300 to drive him to the border at Quebec. After struggling with French for months, in 2018, he took a train to Winnipeg, where he heard about a Ghanaian community that might help him.
It did: finding him a place to stay and connecting him to the health-care system, Rainbow Resource Centre, and immigration lawyer Bashir Khan.
Muniru’s nephrologist at the Health Sciences Centre, Dr. M.E. Karpinski, wrote a letter for his Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada hearing, saying Muniru, who is otherwise healthy, would be an excellent candidate for a kidney transplant.
The kidney specialist wrote his patient would be "very likely" to die if sent back to Ghana, where neither dialysis nor medication for transplantation are funded.
The Immigration and Refugee Board member who heard Muniru’s case Oct. 25 grilled him about his identity, orientation and his involvement with the LGBTTQ+ community in Winnipeg.
In the end, he accepted Muniru’s claim for refugee protection in Canada — not because of his kidney disease but because of his well-founded fear of persecution in Ghana. Because of his sexual identity, there was nowhere in the West Africa country where he’d be safe, the adjudicator ruled.
"I was shocked speechless," said a relieved Muniru.
As a permanent resident of Canada, Muniru said he can get on the wait list for a kidney transplant, which is nearly six years in Manitoba. In the meantime, he’s going for dialysis three days a week, living with a supportive partner and hoping to get into school so he can achieve his goal of becoming a medical instrument technician.
"I want to stay in Winnipeg. I can have a beautiful life."
Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.
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