A Nicaraguanman facing deportation next week says the Immigration and Refugee Boarddenied him asylum in Canada because they didn't believe he's gay.
Alvaro Orozco, who has lived in Toronto for two years, based his refugee claim on fears of returning to his home country where sodomy is illegal. He says his family beat him because of his sexual orientation.
"My father told me, 'If one of my sons became gay one day, I will kill him with my hands,'" said Orozco. "I was so scared. And that is why I escaped."
Orozco,now 21,ran away from home at age 12, hitchhiked across Central America and Mexico, and then swam across the Rio Grande into the United States, where hewas arrested and put into a detention centre for a year.
When he was released on a promise to return to Nicaragua, he fled again, this time to a church. He made his way to Canadain 2005.
Board questions sexual orientation
Board adjudicator Deborah Lamont, who heard the case from Calgary via video conference, questioned whether Orozco was homosexual because he wasn't sexually active while in the U.S.
She also said he was unclear about his sexual orientation when he left Nicaragua.
"I found the claimant's many explanations unsatisfactory for why he chose not to pursue same-sex relationships in the U.S. as he alleged it was his intention to do so and he wanted to do so," she wrote in her decision.
But Orozcosays he decided not to reveal his sexual orientation to the church for fear they'd refuse to help him.
Orozco's lawyer, El-Farouk Khaki, says the ruling shows a lack of understanding about the difficulties the young gay man faced in a homophobic culture, as well ashis tough journey to Canada.
"You've got a kid who's run away from home because he's had the crap beaten out of him by his dad because he's different, because he looks gay, because he doesn't behave like the other boys or his brothers, gets help from Catholic churches and then from a Seventh Day Adventist Church," said Khaki.
"He's 19 years old at the time of the hearing and the board wonders why he hasn't been sexually active?[That's] abit problematic for me," said Khaki.
'He's extremely vulnerable': lawyer
In a last-ditch effort, his lawyer is petitioning Immigration Minister Diane Finley to let Orozco stay on humanitarian grounds.
Khaki is also filing a motion to reopen the refugee claim.
"If he goes back, he's got nobody, he's got nothing," said Khaki. "He basically ends up on the street. He's extremely vulnerable. Sooner or later, he's going to be subject to violence because of his sexual orientation."
Orozco fears the backlash he may face in his native country, especially since his homosexuality has been splashed across Canadian newspapers and is now making news in Nicaragua.
"The government, they will send me to a jail. I feel scared about what they can do," he said.
The Immigration and Refugee Board would not comment on the case, saying it can't discuss individual claims.
Orozco is scheduled to be deported Tuesday.