Homosexual Nigeria citizen have become the highest nationals seeking refugee status in Canada.
Canadian authorities revealed that two out of every three Nigerian applicants claim to be victims of homophobic attacks. It further revealed that Nigeria had 12,138 pending applications as of December 2018, in its Refugee Protection Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan had in 2014 signed the Same Sex (Prohibition) Act which outlawed gay marriage and prescribed a prison term of 14 years for persons found guilty of such.
The total number of pending applications from across the world stood at 71,675 which implies that Nigeria represents about 17 per cent of total pending applications from amongst the over 170 countries.
Haiti comes a distant second with 6,811 pending applications while India has 5,175. Mexico has 3,525; Colombia, which ended a civil war barely three years ago, has 3,056 while China has 2,105.
According to Jawad Kassab who led the refugee and immigration programme at Legal Aid Ontario in 2017, the agency had identified an unusual pattern in sexual orientation claims filed by Nigerian refugee seekers. Speaking to CBC News, he further said he was concerned that if claims were fabricated, refugees with legitimate claims might have a harder time getting the help they need.
“It galls me because of the potential impact 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
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 2017 were based on persecution because of sexual orientation.
Kassab described that number as “high, relative to other countries.”
Kassab said Legal Aid feared some of the claims were either made up by individual claimants or that legal representatives coached them to do so.