A lesbian hailing from Nigeria, who applied for refugee protection in Canada has said she can’t return back home to Nigeria because nobody wants her here, rather that they want her dead.
According to the 32-year-old woman, who asked to be identified only as U.O., she fears persecution in her home country, where homosexuality is a crime punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
She’s been in Winnipeg for three months, arriving for a conference and abandoning her plans to return to Nigeria after finding out her girlfriend was jailed and police were looking for U.O.
She went before the refugee protection division of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada on Thursday to plead her case, giving written consent for a Free Press reporter to observe the hearing while several supporters from Winnipeg’s LGBTQ community waited outside.
Those supporters are the only family U.O. has now, she said before the hearing. Her family in Nigeria has turned its back on her because of her sexuality, she said.
“Nobody there wants me. They want me dead,” she said, saying she’ll be lynched if she returns to her family.
“So, I don’t think they deserve me,” she added, saying she would be happy to start a new life here “and find a new love.”
U.O’s journey toward refugee protection began in May, when U.O., who was an outreach worker at a non-governmental organization in Nigeria, attended an HIV/AIDS conference in Winnipeg, she told the Free Press in an earlier interview.
That’s where she was when she found out her girlfriend — her first love from university whom she’d been seeing in secret in Nigeria — had been arrested and forced to confess their relationship, and that her husband had outed U.O. to her employer.
She was crying in a washroom during the conference when another woman approached and advised her she likely had a legitimate refugee claim.
Her fate now rests in the hands of an appointed adjudicator. The adjudicator decided she needed more time to hear U.O.’s case. The hearing is set to continue Aug. 22.
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