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

Posted
November 9, 2017

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.

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." 

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