“Not gay enough” refugee loses his appeal

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A refugee from Nicaragua who was denied asylum in Canada because he could not prove he is gay has been deemed safe to return for a second time by immigration officials.

As Alvaro Antonio Orozco was not sexually active as a teenager, it was impossible to verify his sexuality.

He has gone into hiding, and his only hope of remaining in Canada is an intervention from the Immigration Minister.

“I feel very concerned about my safety in Canada because now I do not have legal status in this country,” Mr Orozco said, according to the Toronto Star.

“If they send me back to Nicaragua, I can face persecution by the government and the Catholic community who judge gay life as sodomy.”

During his initial immigration hearing in February Mr Orozco’s lawyer accused the Immigration and Refugee Board of stereotyping gay teenagers as more sexually active than their heterosexual counterparts.

The case has raised questions about how a refugee can “prove” their sexual orientation.

“I think the decision shows a lack of understanding of issues facing queer kids from homophobic cultures and what they have to deal with in terms of gender stereotypes,” laywer El-Farouk Khaki told the Globe and Mail newspaper at the time of the tribunal ruling.

Mr Orozco, now 21, fled Nicaragua when he was 12 years old, hitchhiked to the Mexican/American border, nearly drowned swimming across the Rio Grande, spent a year in a detention centre and took refuge with a Seventh Day Adventist group.

He came to Canada two years ago because he thought the country was more accepting of gay refugees.

Nicaragua criminalized gay relationships in 1992, and gay people fear for their lives in the violently macho culture.

In February Mr Orozco told the immigration tribunal that his father had beaten him for being gay from an early age, which prompted him to run away.

But IRB member Deborah Lamont was unconvinced by the Nicaraguan.

“I found the claimant’s many explanations unsatisfactory for why he chose not to pursue same-sex relationships in the U.S. as he alleged it was his intention to do so and he wanted to do so,” she ruled, according to the Globe and Mail.

“He is not a homosexual . . . and fabricated the sexual orientation component to support a non-existent claim for protection in Canada.”

Mr Orozco was given permission to appeal, but a second assessment has agreed that he should be returned to Nicaragua.

Canadian MP Olivia Chow has taken up his case and argues that the publicity Mr Orozco has received in Nicaragua means it is not safe for him to return.