A gay man has been denied refugee status in New Zealand, despite facing homophobic abuse and violence back in Chile.
The 26-year-old, identified only as AL, appealed to the Immigration and Protection Tribunal after Immigration New Zealand deemed he was not a refugee or a protected person.
Through his Auckland-based lawyer Tonderai Mukusha, AL said he feared serious physical and psychological harm back home because he is gay.
However, the tribunal upheld Immigration NZ’s decision.
* Argentinian man living with HIV must leave NZ despite fears over access to meds
* Porn star beaten for bisexuality, political beliefs wins refugee appeal
* Indian man has refugee appeal dismissed over gay abuse claims
According to a recently released judgment, AL has been in New Zealand since December 2017 on a visitor visa.
He had suffered homophobic bullying since he was a teenager – he was thrown into a rubbish bin at one high school, then had a “large stone or rock” thrown at him at another. He was also kicked out of the Scouts for being gay.
When he was at university in 2016, one of his friends, who was lesbian, was murdered while on her way home from a night out with AL and their two other friends.
“The police said that her body had been found on the side of a hill and there were signs that she had been tortured and raped,” the decision said.
“The media reported that it was a hate crime and the appellant believes this to be correct as [she] dressed in a masculine way which caused strangers to easily identify her as a lesbian.”
AL also reported being the victim of verbal homophobic abuse on multiple occasions.
The tribunal noted gay and lesbian sexual activity was illegal in Chile until 1999 and the country had historically been “profoundly conservative”. However, there had been “considerable progress” over the past two decades.
An anti-discrimination law, a marriage equality law and a gender identity law had all been recently passed. As of May 2021, 82% of Chileans surveyed supported same-sex marriage.
However, LGBTQI people still faced violence and discrimination. In 2019, there were five deaths and 32 reports of police abuse attributed to victims’ sexual orientation or gender identity.
The tribunal accepted AL’s evidence as credible and said he may encounter “discrimination, harassment and hostility” if he returned to Chile.
However, the chance of him “suffering any instance of serious physical harm on account of his homosexuality” was low and did not reach the threshold required to classify him as a refugee, it found.
“It must be remembered that the Refugee Convention does not guarantee to protect all people from all harm, of all kinds, all of the time,” the decision said.
“Further, it is evident that societal attitudes in Chile are changing, particularly among younger people and it can be expected that such abuse will diminish.”
Where to get help for the LGBTQI+ community
- OUTline NZ 0800 688 5463 (0800 OUTLINE)
- RainbowYOUTH 09 376 4155
- 1737, Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 to talk to a trained counsellor
- Depression.org.nz 0800 111 757 or text 4202
- Lifeline 0800 543 354
- Suicide Crisis Helpline 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
- Kidsline 0800 54 37 54 for people up to 18 years old. Open 24/7.
- Youthline 0800 376 633, free text 234, email [email protected], or find online chat and other support options here.