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08-15-07, 10:12 AM #1
Young Nicaraguan man in illegally hiding in Canada fearing his country will kill him because he's gay
A young Nicaraguan man who says he fears he will be killed in his home country because of his sexual orientation has gone into hiding in Toronto after his latest bid to stay in Canada failed.
Alvaro Orozco, 22, has been holed up at a friend's place since Thursday, when his refugee claim was denied, but came out briefly over the weekend to speak to CBC News.
"Most of the time, I'm hiding because I'm not supposed to be anywhere. I feel like a fugitive. It's really bad," said Orozco.
His case made headlines in Canada and Nicaragua in February when the Immigration and Refugee Board denied him asylum saying they didn't believe he was gay.
His lawyer filed a motion to reopen the refugee claim. Again, he was denied.
He based his refugee claim on the fact that it is against the law to be gay in Nicaragua, where an anti-sodomy law was enacted in 1992.
"It wasn't like lots of countries where they still have the laws, but they're like residues of old times and they're not acted upon. [The law] was a clear intention to persecute people and actually this does happen to this day," said Suhail Abulsameed of Support Our Youth, a gay support group in Toronto that has been helping Orozco.
NDP MP Olivia Chow has also taken up the case, and is pressuring Citizenship and Immigration Minister Diane Finley to allow the Nicaraguan man to stay in Canada.
At this point, his last chance is to be accepted under humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
'Now they know my name'
The media attention in Nicaragua has also magnified Orozco's fears he'll be thrown in jail or killed if he returns to his home country.
"Now they know my name. If I walk in the street in the nighttime or any time in my country, they can kill me," said Orozco.
Orozco first came to Toronto two years ago after a lengthy journey from his home country where he fled at age 12.
He hitchhiked across Central America, lived in Mexico, then illegally entered the United States by swimming across the Rio Grande.
Officials arrested him and sent him to a detention centre, where he spent a year behind bars before he was released on a promise to return to Nicaragua. But again he fled first to a church, then to Canada in 2005.
Orozco claims he was forced to flee Nicaragua because of the laws against homosexuality. He also says his father beat him and threatened to kill him because of his sexual orientation.
In February, an Immigration and Refugee Board adjudicator denied his refugee claim application, questioning whether Orozco was indeed homosexual since he never chose to pursue same-sex relationships while in the U.S.
Orozco's lawyer argued the 22-year-old decided not to reveal his secret because he feared the church helping him might stop if it learned he was gay.
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