I started getting ready for the big day at 4 a.m. I put on my suit and then went to Toronto. My meeting was at 9:30 a.m. I had breakfast and then entered the building at 8:45 a.m.
At about 9:50 a.m. all of us, five different claimants, were called into the meeting room. Our cases were similar and so were the rules that applied to us--these were relayed verbally. Two of the claimants had translators; one in Urdu, the other in Tamil. So, the person who was telling us about the regulations had to halt every few words for the deciphering. This got quite jarring after a few minutes. The entire talk in English / Urdu / Tamil took around 30 minutes.
After that we left the room. It was time for each case to be dealt with individually. I was called at around 10:45 a.m.
I was presented with a few documents such as the photocopy of my personal file and the supporting papers that I had provided them a few months earlier. A curious two-page document called the Screening Form was also given to me. Basically, in there, my claim was boiled down in a few words. I wasn't satisfied with the summary. In turn, the person(s) who made the Screening Form weren't satisfied with my claim.
For example, a part of the "Claim Description" in the Screening Form:
"PAKISTAN, Punjab, Lahore
Fear is unspecified/unclear
appears to fear persecution because of his anti-Islamic views."
Apparently, I have done an atrocious job of presenting my case. Fortunately, I still have three months to rectify the situation (since I can mail in documents at least 20 days before the hearing).
I asked a few questions about the summary. I was told that it comes down to credibility or rather the lack of it. The Refugee Protection Officer tried to console me by saying that that is the problem with everyone in my situation.
The officer made a phone call to schedule the time for my hearing. She inquired if X day in January is alright. I thought to myself for a second and then asked if it was possible to make it the day after that. The officer went back to the call and in a few seconds answered in the affirmative.
I left the building at 11:30 a.m. Leading up to the meeting, I tried to stay calm but somehow anxiety crept up ever so slowly. When I exited the building, I was mentally tired. I walked to the bus station in zombie-mode.
On the trip back, only one thought echoed in my mind: On my next birthday, I will fight for my life.