An openly gay and atheist University of Winnipeg student who feared for his life if he was sent back to his home country, Malaysia, will be allowed to stay in Canada, as his claim for refugee status has been accepted. Hazim Ismail’s partner, friends and supporters hugged him after an Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada panel in Winnipeg announced its decision following a 20-minute hearing on Tuesday morning. “It was overwhelming and I feel really, really, really loved and appreciated,” Ismail said as he thanked everyone who has supported him.
Ismail said he was still trying to process the decision, which came after months of preparations and anxiety about possibly having to return to Malaysia, where homosexuality is punishable by law and 60 per cent of the population is Muslim. “Hazim walked in as a refugee claimant and he is walking out as a protected person … which means he cannot be deported back to Malaysia,” said Bashir Khan, his lawyer. “This is one of those cases where the evidence is strong, my client is very credible and he has got tremendous public support, and all of that came together and he won his claim without too much struggle at the hearing room today.”
Khan said Ismail will receive a written version of the decision in the next three to six weeks. With that document in hand, he can apply for permanent resident status in Canada — a process that Khan estimates can take 10 to 13 months.