The Times of Israel reports the asylum story of Vito, who, with the help of an Israeli LGBT organization, found refuge in Oslo, the Norwegian capital, after having lived illegally in Tel Aviv for a decade. Working in construction and living anywhere he could lay his head, Vito tried to stay under the radar so as not to be caught by Israeli police and deported back to Nablus.
"Being forced to return to the Palestinian territories was the last thing he wanted after having suffered prolonged sexual abuse as a child and later being almost slaughtered by his father when a friend vengefully showed him cellphone video footage of Vito having sex with another man." (Times)
The story of Vito is not unlike the story of many African LGBTI people who have also sought refuge in Scandanvian countries – however, many such African Asylum seekers barely know where to turn, as International LGBT organizations generally do not provide direct services.
"Vito, who carries a deep scar across his right cheek reminding him of his father’s attack, no longer needs to fear having to return to a society where he cannot live safely and openly as a homosexual man." (Times of Israel)
This past September, Vito became a citizen of Norway. This is a dream fror many asylum seekers.
"In a recent conversation with The Times of Israel, Vito, 36, seemed far more relaxed than he did two and a half years ago in an interview about his appearance in a documentary film by Israeli filmmaker Yariv Mozer called, “The Invisible Men." (Times of Israel)”
While this story ends well for Vito, it is clear he did not have an easy road to reach this outcome.
African HRC has received several requests for help from LGBTI people who have made their way to Scandanavian countries, where often they have a very difficult time proving their cases to immigration authorities. We recently assisted a gay man who had been denied asylum in Norway because authorities did not believe he was gay. He had to go through tremendous difficulty to prove his case, including a detailed report submitted by Melanie Nathan, Exectuive Director of African HRC.
LGBTI asylum seekers from all around the globe remain extremely marginalized and LGBTI organizations do not seem equipped to provide for their living needs. This is an emerging crisis as African countries continue to increase their laws criminalizing and targeting LGBTI people.
As a global LGBTI community we have a lot of work to do to ensure that when LGBT people cross borders seeking asylum, we have enough accommodations and humanitarian services, as well as pro bono legal services in place, to take immediate care of these urgent needs.
Africans arriving in the USA and Europe have been severely traumatized, like Vito, and there are minimal, if any resources, to help.
Those needs include shelter, food, legal assistance, trauma counseling and warm clothes. At African HRC, we are seeking funding to ensure that these direct needs are met through the programs we have established and are planning to establish in the months ahead.
At this time African HRC is seeking rooms, cash donations and clothing for a lesbian couple, 5 gay men, all in San Francisco, and one lesbian in Los Angeles. If you can help kindly contact us at nathan@AfricanHRC.org
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