The Millions

‘Between Everything and Nothing’: Featured Nonfiction from Joe Meno

In today’s installment of featured nonfiction—curated by none other than our own Carolyn Quimby—we present an excerpt from Joe Meno’s Between Everything and Nothing: The Journey of Seidu Mohammed and Razak Iyal and the Quest for Asylum.

The book, which follows two Ghanaian refugees, 24-year-old Seidu Mohammed and 32-year-old Razak Iyal, in their quest for political asylum, received a starred review from Kirkus, which called the book and “Ambitious exposé of the troubled immigration system” and “A well-paced and engaging account, highly relevant…”


Month after month went by at the Eloy detention facility with Razak wondering when he would finally face the immigration judge and be freed. After the attempt on his life by thugs hired by a corrupt member of parliament and his half-siblings, he had fled Ghana for Brazil, had crossed border after border on foot and by bus, and survived being robbed of his birth certificate, passport, and other documents. But nothing prepared him for this endless waiting.

Finally, after eight months of detention, Razak stood at his third hearing before the same judge who, having reviewed Razak’s documents, stated he needed to see evidence of the threats against Razak’s life before he was able to make a ruling. “Please prepare any and all evidence that you have,” the judge ordered. 

Razak felt despondent and decided to speak directly to the judge in English. “I can’t make long-distance calls back home. The calling cards only give you two minutes. I can’t use the internet. What am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to get evidence?” 

“I understand your concerns but I need proof that what you claim in these documents actually happened. If you get me the proof, then we can figure out how to proceed. You have one month to show me some kind of evidence.” 


After the hearing, Razak tried to contact the immigration lawyer he had spoken with but got no response. He spoke with other detainees; all of them were facing the same impossibility. None of them had any answer on how to attain evidence

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