Nigerian Woman Who Could Be Killed for Converting from Islam Faces Deportation From Canada

Nigerian Woman Who Could Be Killed for Converting from Islam Faces Deportation From Canada

Nigerian Woman Who Could Be Killed for Converting from Islam Faces Deportation From Canada

A Nigerian family that fled to Canada four years ago to escape persecution for their Christian faith is facing deportation after the Canadian government rejected their application to remain in Canada.

Morufat Ogunkoya, her husband, and their son and two daughters fled Nigeria in 2018 after she converted from Islam to Christianity and her father, a Muslim cleric, issued an Islamic legal ruling called fatwa calling for her death, according to one of the groups helping the family.

“They will kill Morufat and her son Viktor will be recruited into extremist groups. And the two girls will be forced back into Islam, forced into marriage, and maybe even female genital mutilation,” her lawyer said.

Before fleeing Nigeria, Viktor was attacked and threatened with further violence unless the family returned to Islam, El Shafie said. Daughters Hephzibah and Rejoice were almost abducted twice, he said, and Morufat’s mother was killed by poisoning after she warned Morufat about her father’s fatwa. Morufat’s father is affiliated with Nasril Fathia, an offshoot of the more widely known terrorist group Boko Haram, El Shafie said.

Legal Hurdles, Compassionate Need

Morufat and her children live in Ontario. Her husband, who had also converted to Christianity, has been estranged from the family since before they arrived in Canada. The family first obtained visas to enter the United States. Then Morufat and the children crossed into Canada in January 2018 via an unmarked border crossing at Lacolle, Que.

The Canadian government denied the family’s application for refugee status, with the immigration officer stating that the Ogunkoyas could return to a part of Nigeria where their risk of harm would be minimal.

A deportation order issued to the family in late 2019 forced Morufat and her children to go into hiding, with the help of the local community. It wasn’t until November 2021 that they were able to come out of hiding while proceeding with their pre-removal risk assessment and humanitarian and compassionate application. However, that application was also denied.

Despite this, their lawyer Sam Plett is optimistic they will eventually succeed.

“Right now, we feel there are legal grounds for the court to intervene,” Plett said.

A Ton of Support Letters, Signatures’

Plett and the groups helping the family had compiled hundreds of pages of evidence they say demonstrate the family’s successful integration and positive value to the community. Yet they say the denial of the family’s claim seemed to ignore much of this documentation.

“It was 1,500 pages with a ton of support letters, signatures—everything they did from working in the community to jobs to how they’re involved in the church and everything,” said Sonya Wierenga, executive director of Rose City Kids.

“They said there’s no proof they are volunteering in the community, no proof that they’re part of a church. But meanwhile, I had letters from the pastor, the secretary, and church members. So we concluded they didn’t read it.”

Wierenga and her organization have spearheaded the efforts to help the Ogunkoyas stay, including during the time when they were forced to hide in a church for almost two years.

Afrotimes Newspaper


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