March 30, 2015

Egyptian Gay Man Granted Refugee Status by NZ

A gay Egyptian man who was bullied and ostracised in his home nation due to his “appearance” and “demeanour” has been declared a refugee by the New Zealand Immigration and Protection Tribunal.
The man appealed a decision by the Refugee Status Branch denying him refugee status, arguing that he was at risk of being persecuted if he was returned to Egypt, because he is gay. 
The Tribunal decision says his predicament turns on the fact he is gay.
“While the social and religious dictates of Egyptian society make it impossible for him to overtly acknowledge this, he has faced continual harassment and prejudice as a result of looking and behaving in a way that was perceived to be different from the norm,” it reads.
“This created difficulties for him throughout his school years, with both fellow pupils and teachers alike. A paternal uncle convinced his father to send him to a military school to toughen him up. He was perennially bullied and on at least one occasion subjected to a sexual assault from which he escaped before it became significantly more serious than it was. 
“His early efforts to complain about his treatment in general were met with an unsympathetic response. He did not complain further.”
As an adult he worked as a laboratory assistant at a hospital, but left after 18 months due after he was ostracised. He was able to travel thanks to a trust fund, and came to New Zealand in 2005.
“Despite feeling much more comfortable with life in New Zealand, he still maintained a degree of privacy about his personal life. He did not feel the need to hide or deny his sexuality as he had in Egypt but, if asked about it, simply tended to divert the question,” the decision reads.
In 2012 he married a New Zealand citizen in exchange for money, something the Tribunal says doesn’t contradict his claim he is gay, but “simply reflects an ill-advised (and dishonest) attempt to try to remain in New Zealand”.
He is now in a relationship with a man and says he would be ostracised by his family if he had to return to Egypt, and it would be impossible to live there independently and safely. 
“While he has survived in the past by hiding his sexuality as best he can, he is at an age where this would be increasingly difficult. This is particularly so because for the past 10 years, while he has lived in New Zealand, he has become accustomed to not having to suppress his fundamental identity,” the decision reads.
The Tribunal has upheld the appeal and granted the man refugee status, saying it has taken into account evidence the Refugee Status Branch didn’t have when it made its initial decision, including clear evidence he is gay.
It says while there are no specific laws criminalizing homosexuality in Egypt, the authorities tend to target the gay community under the guise of public morality laws, which they use to justify making arrests and pursuing prosecutions.
The Tribunal says the man has a well-founded fear of being persecuted in Egypt.

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