A young gay Nicaraguan man scheduled for deportation next Tuesday pleaded with Immigration Minister Diane Finley to remain in Canada free from the persecution his sexuality would bring if he returned to his home country.
Alvaro Antonio Orozco, 21, filed for refugee status because he is “scared” to return to Nicaragua where sodomy is a crime and where his family allegedly beat him because he was gay. In spite of his fears, Orozco’s claim was turned down because the Immigration and Refugee Board didn‘t believe he was a homosexual.
“My request from the Immigration Minister is to give me an opportunity here and to live my gay life freely and safely,” Orozco said at a public meeting on Thursday.
His failed claim stated that he would be in danger if he returned to Nicaragua because he is gay and could be imprisoned for engaging in same-sex activities.
The claim was denied after an IRB panel, including adjudicator Deborah Lamont, heard Orozco’s case from Calgary via videoconference. She concluded “…he is not a homosexual…and fabricated the sexual orientation component to support a non-existent claim for protection in Canada.”
Lamont added that Orozco’s lack of same-sex relationships during his teen years in the United States helped prove he is not a homosexual.
“Essentially she didn’t believe that he was gay,” said El-Farouk Khaki, Orozco’s lawyer. “He got drilled for between five and six hours and at the end of it (Lamont) said ‘I don’t believe that you’re gay.’”
Khaki argued that these type of on-screen meetings hurt refugee claimants’ chances of success.
“It invariably resulted in a decrease in acceptance of cases,” Khaki said. “It was based on this TV screen image that the members were supposed to make decisions on credibility…and failed to consider his particular vulnerabilities.”
Orozco fled his native Nicaragua at the age of 12 where he endured family abuse that included beatings with sticks and belts. He arrived in Toronto in 2005 after nine years of living on the run through central America and the United States.
“I ran away with a few clothes in my backpack and started looking forward to my dreams,” Orozco said.
After swimming across the Rio Grande to illegally enter the United States, Orozco was detained and spent time in both youth and adult detention centres before fleeing to Florida to find help from the Seventh Day Adventist Church. He then travelled to Canada when he learned that this country upholds gay rights.
Khaki said none of Orozco’s vulnerabilities were taken into consideration when the IRB denied him legal status.
“He fell through one crack to another to another,” Khaki said.
Khaki plans to file a request with Minister Finley today to intervene and grant Orozco permanent resident status on humanitarian grounds. If Orozco’s appeal is not successful, his lawyer kept open the possibility of sanctuary at a local church as a last resort to keep the young man in Canada.
“That’s a problematic option…it’s not a place where I want to go if I don’t have to,” Khaki said.
Efforts to keep Orozco in Canada escalated after his story broke in the media earlier this week. On Wednesday NDP MP Olivia Chow reacted to public outcry and wrote to Minister Finley, pleading with her to intervene in Orozco’s case.
And Bill Graham, Liberal MP for Toronto Centre, contacted the head of the Department of Public Safety, Stockwell Day, asking for a stay of Orozco’s removal.