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Nicaraguan refugee goes into hiding

Deportation deadline passes

Alvaro Orozco, the Nicaraguan refugee who was denied status because an Immigration Refugee Board (IRB) member doesn’t believe he is gay, went into hiding in Toronto on Aug 9 after his deportation deadline passed.

“I’m concerned about my safety here in Canada because I know I do not have full status in this country,” wrote Orozco in an Aug 9 statement. “I’m concerned about the risk that I face if they send me back to Nicaragua where I can face persecution by the government and the Catholic community who judge gay life as sodomy.”

Orozco fled Nicaragua to the United States when he was 12 after he says his father beat him for being gay. He lived illegally in the US until 2005 when he came to Canada. If he is deported, Orozco will likely be handed over to US authorities who could detain him in a federal facility and eventually deport him to Nicaragua.

In Nicaragua, homosexuality is punishable by up to four years in prison. Since Orozco was denied status in Canada last October, his story and the truth about his sexual orientation have been published in the Nicaraguan mainstream media.

“There were tangible risks before the press picked up his story,” said Orozco’s lawyer, El-Farouk Khaki at an Aug 9 press conference at the 519 Community Centre. “Those risks were exacerbated because his name and orientation were broadcast in the Nicaraguan press.”

Orozco’s story appeared in El Nuevo Diario, one of Managua’s two largest daily newspapers.

“If Canadians start taking all the fags in the world, they are going to be fucked,” reads an anonymous reader comment posted in Spanish on the newspaper’s website. “Many of these fags are infected with AIDS, which represents an expense to the state. Canadians have a humanitarian sense but they aren’t stupid.”

“God free us from all this faggotry,” reads another comment. “Imagine if all of God’s creation was gay, who would have children? It would be the end of the world.”

On Jun 5, Xtra reported that Khaki’s office had filed something called a pre-removal risk assessment (PRRA) with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). The PRRA carefully and completely documents the real risks to Orozco’s safety if he returns to Nicaragua and could lead CIC to stop Orozco’s deportation. Khaki says the PRRA was rejected on Aug 9.

“Despite the fact that Nicaragua criminalizes homosexuality and despite the fact that Orozco has been outed in the national media, they still said he’s not at risk,” he says.

Earlier this year, Khaki also filed an immigration application asking that Orozco be allowed to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. But, says Khaki, that process is usually for people living outside Canada and can take months or years to complete; time Orozco doesn’t have.

In the meantime, Khaki is counting on public support for Orozco’s cause to pressure government officials for a different result.

“We continue to advocate,” says Khaki. “We still have some recourse. We hope that there will be some support from the public. We haven’t had much time to come up with a strategy.”