World Bulletin / News Desk
As Eze sat in the pews at a church where he goes most mornings to pray, his phone buzzed with a new message. His Icelandic teacher was checking in on him, giving him support.
A calm and composed man, Eze began to cry, the emotion intensifying as he continued to read. His friends in Iceland were standing with him, the message said, they would fight for him.
Eze Okafor, 32, had been living in Iceland for the last four years, working as a cook in a local restaurant, learning the Icelandic language, building a community.
"Iceland is my home now. I have contributed to the society here. Many people know me. My friends have become my family," he said.
Eze fled Nigera after being targeted by Boko Haram. In 2010, he and his younger brother, Okwy, were attacked in retaliation for not joining the armed group. "They tried to recruit me, but I refused."
Members of Boko Haram stormed their house in Maiduguri, Borno State, in northeastern Nigeria. Eze was stabbed in the head and face. Okwy was killed.
Soon after, Eze fled Nigeria and made a long and dangerous boat journey to Europe, where in 2011 he sought asylum in Sweden. He told his story and showed his still fresh and infected wounds, including the gash over his eye, which he feared would cost him his eyesight. He was denied asylum and made his way to Iceland.
He applied for asylum in Iceland in 2012 but was denied.
He has been working with a lawyer, Katrin Theodorsdottir, who then applied for permission for Eze to stay in Iceland on humanitarian grounds, as his case has slowly made its way through the system. Eze said in October he was given temporary residency and could work.
His case in Iceland has hinged on what time limit is relevant to his asylum request, as defined by Article 19 of the Dublin Regulation, which determines which EU member state is responsible for asylum seekers.
Article 19 lays out a timeframe of six months within which an asylum seeker must be sent back to the country where they were originally asking for asylum, otherwise the current country is responsible for processing their asylum case.
After many rejections, appeals and back and forths between various immigration authorities, Theodorsdottir said there was a "twist". A special immigration committee reviewing Eze's case said the time limit to send Eze back to Sweden might have expired, and advised him to go to the immigration office and have his application for asylum processed.Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Haziran 2016, 14:49