Similarities in Nigerian asylum claims based on sexual orientation have Legal Aid Ontario asking questions

Good comparative analysis to spot anomalies:

Nigerian asylum seekers in Canada are making so many similar claims based on sexual orientation that Legal Aid Ontario is worried some claims may be fabricated.

Jawad Kassab, who leads the refugee and immigration program at Legal Aid Ontario, said the agency has identified an “unusual” pattern in sexual orientation claims filed by Nigerian refugee seekers this year.

He said the agency has written to five lawyers who represent a “high volume” of those cases and asked if they can help explain what’s behind it. He would not name the lawyers.

Kassab said he is concerned that if claims are fabricated, refugees with legitimate claims might have a harder time getting the help they need.

“It galls me because of the potential impact that it could have on the refugee system and the Canadian public’s perception of refugee claimants and refugees in a very vulnerable time globally,” he said.

Former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan signed the Same-sex Marriage Prohibition Act into law on Jan. 7, 2014. The law allows for up to 10 years in prison for belonging to a gay rights groups and up to 14 years imprisonment for engaging in homosexual behaviour. (Tiksa Negeri/Reuters)

The Nigerian government outlawed same-sex relationships in 2014. Arbitrary arrests, extortion and mob violence against those believed to be homosexual have become more common since then, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch, a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization.

Lawyers who represent Nigerian refugees say that may explain the recent spike in Nigerian refugee applications based on sexual orientation.

“It’s almost like a war zone for homosexuals,” said immigration lawyer Richard Odeleye. “You cannot expect people to put up with that, and they have to leave.”

Odeleye, who said he received one of the letters from Legal Aid Ontario, says he finds the suggestion that lawyers may be coaching clients to fabricate their stories “insulting” and “discriminatory.”

About 90 per cent of the refugee claims made by Nigerians in Canada are heard in Toronto.

Kassab said Legal Aid Ontario, which covers the legal costs for most refugee claims heard in the province, became suspicious after a routine review of refugee applications showed that 60 to 70 per cent of about 600 Nigerian claims made in Ontario since April were based on persecution because of sexual orientation.

Kassab described that number as “high, relative to other countries.”

Kassab said the stories often involved a married person whose spouse discovered them with a same-sex partner. The married couple then reconciled and they and the same-sex partner all applied for refugee status in Canada over fears of persecution in Nigeria.

via Similarities in Nigerian asylum claims based on sexual orientation have Legal Aid Ontario asking questions – Canada – CBC News

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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