Thursday, 6 September 2007

Gay Lebanese man declared refugee

A Lebanese man was recently granted refugee status by the Refugee Review Tribunal because he was gay goes to show that some of the criticism of that tribunal is unwarranted.

The man gave evidence that:
"he came from a very conservative [religious] family who resided in [location], a region renowned for its conservative views. He fears persecution on the ground of belonging to a Particular Social Group, that is being homosexual."

"He has constantly tried to conceal his sexual orientation for fear of retribution by his family and other people, as homosexuality is still not accepted in Lebanon. Those who are accused of being homosexuals are persecuted and considered outcasts. The mere discussion of homosexuality is considered taboo."

"Some people suspect that he is homosexual because of his placid nature. During his military service [for a period of years], he was fearful for his safety and was constantly forced to deny that he was homosexual. Other conscripts used to abuse him mentally and physically but he feared complaining to his superiors."

"At the age of [teen years] he started to feel that he was attracted to other males. But he was denied the opportunity of maintaining a relationship with other males because of fear that he would be discovered."

"At his age as the family expected him to get married he was constantly under pressure to meet girls but he never maintained a serious relationship, hoping that he would have an opportunity to leave Lebanon."

"His adult life was characterised by fear. He was constantly under threat of physical harassment. On a number of occasions he suffered from physical violence by people who suspected that he was homosexual. He was forced to conceal his homosexuality in order to avoid harm."

"He cannot rely on the authorities for protection because in Lebanon homosexuality is not accepted. The police conduct a campaign of rounding up suspected homosexuals."

"He did not come from a privileged social class who has the capacity to enjoy more freedom in Lebanon. He fears being killed by his immediate family and relatives."

"He has told his [family member] in Australia that he is gay . His [family member] has advised him to keep this aspect of his life secret because he is concerned about guarding the family honour. He does not want him to tell his wife and children because they will not allow him to remain living with them."

The Tribunal sought out independent evidence from websites, which talked about how gays are persecuted in Lebanon. Aside from the criminalisation of homosexual acts, gay men in Lebanon were afraid of police. Police used their power against gay men: “It has been reported that a gay man paid a bribe to have any mention of his sexual orientation erased from his criminal record. Extortion of gay men by security agents has also occurred, especially in cruising areas.”

After all this evidence, it was perhaps no surprise when the Tribunal decided that the man was a refugee and was entitled to a protection visa.

This decision is not an isolated one, but it is clear that some cases are rejected, and that it is essential if applying to be a refugee on the grounds of being LGBT, it is essential to be properly prepared, with a good migration agent. The success rate of matters in the Refugee Review Tribunal is currently only 30%.

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