Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Nigerian Woman Stripped Of Her Refugee Status In Canada Over Suspicious Questions Regarding Her True Identity

32-year-old Gift Daniel is facing likely deportation from Canada after an Ottawa court overturned a decision to grant her refugee status due to a spelling error of her name in a government birth certificate she obtained from Lagos. According to, typo could be costly, especially when it’s in the name on the ID of a refugee claimant. In a rare appeal case, Ottawa has overturned a decision to grant refugee status to a Nigerian woman, in part because of a misspelling of her name in a government birth document from Lagos. Gift Daniel, 32, now faces deportation from Canada at any time.

What was unusual with the government’s appeal is immigration officials did not challenge Daniel’s claim that she was a victim of female genital mutilation and domestic abuse, but contested her credibility on the grounds that she is not who she claims to be.

“I have never seen or heard of a positive decision overturned completely by the refugee appeal division, where the pressing concern was on the identity and not on the merits of the decision,” said Daniel’s lawyer, Richard Wazana. “They did not question the forced marriage, abuse and violence.”

Daniel, a hairstylist from Benin, arrived in Canada in February 2015 using a false Canadian passport under the name of Desiree Dobson and filed an asylum claim upon landing at Pearson International Airport. She was also in possession of a Social Insurance Number card, birth certificate and driver’s licence under the same name, according to federal government officials.

Daniel claimed she was forced to undergo female circumcision in 2012 and was sold by her father a year later to an older man who sexually, physically and psychologically abused her before she fled Nigeria with the help of a smuggler. The refugee board confirmed there was documented evidence of genital mutilation.

Upon her arrival in Canada, Daniel said she declared her real identity to officials as “Gift Daniel” and provided a birth document and driver’s licence issued by the Nigerian government as proof.

However, a border enforcement official quickly noticed her birth document spelled her name as “Gife” while her licence spelled it “Gift” - setting off questions by Canadian officials over her identity. She was detained at the Rexdale immigration holding centre for three months until her release on May 13, 2015, when she was granted refugee status.

Despite concerns over Daniel’s identity, refugee judge Shamshuddin Alidina, in granting her asylum, wrote the tribunal “believes, on a balance of probability, that the claimant has persuasively established her identity as Gift Daniel from Nigeria.”

While Daniel has insisted she only became aware of the typo after it was spotted by the border official, the different spellings of her name in her identity documents triggered the government’s challenge to the refugee appeal tribunal to overturn the asylum decision, Wazana said.

“Identity is clearly an important fact, so important, that if not established, there is no need to further analyze the evidence and the claim must fail,” the government said in its appeal.

“Absent a properly established identity, a matter of utmost importance to refugee determination, the claimant cannot be considered to be a credible witness on the material aspects of her claim for refugee protection.”

In its appeal application, border enforcement officials also noted Daniel could not provide them with details on who helped her obtain the false passport she used to come to Canada and argued that her claim was “assessed on the basis of one facet of the respondent’s alleged identity: survivor of forced female genital mutilation and gendered violence.”

In addition to the error in her name on her birth document, they said her other ID, including two additional driver’s licences she later produced and a voter’s card, were not acceptable proof of identity.

Immigration officials argued the driver’s licences — two expired and one current — that Daniel submitted bear different signatures and that one expired licence has a picture that does not look like her. The identity issue was further compounded by a new birth document Daniel later submitted with the correct spelling of her first name.

The refugee appeal division (RAD) rejected Daniel’s explanation that a friend forged her signature on her first driver’s licence because she forgot to sign it on her application. 

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