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This gay Egyptian man granted asylum has inspiring advice for LGBT refugees

Meka Beresford May 6, 2017
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A gay Egyptian man who has been granted refugee status in Canada has inspiring and important advice to other LGBT refugees.

23-year-old Samer Habib began his application in February after coming to the county five years ago, fearing that if he returned to his country his life would be put at risk because of his sexuality.

On Friday, his application came to a close and he was awarded with an answer that he and his boyfriend, Giovanny Penner, had been holding out for – he would be able to stay in the country.

The pair were “ecstatic” over the news.

“We started crying and we hugged each other,” Habib explained. “Everyone in the room started getting emotional.”

Although Habib has been granted refugee status, he has a message to other claimants who may be in the same situation as himself, as he credits a new set of “revolutionary” guidelines introduced by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada which offer guidance to judges on processing cases involving LGBT individuals.

Habib explained that the guidelines meant his case was treated with “respect”.

“I’m very optimistic for next cases to come that people are going to be treated fairly in terms of their claims, and with respect,” he said.

“And that’s what they should expect. Just because you’re a refugee claimant doesn’t mean you should be humiliated or degraded, but you deserve that level of respect from the decision-maker, and I’m glad to see that.”

Habibs lawyer, Bashir Khan, said the guidelines added another level of human rights to consider within refugee hearings.

“It really brings the concept of human rights right into an adjudicative refugee hearing that was perhaps not there [before] because it recognises and acknowledges the particular vulnerability that LGBTQ refugees face as opposed to straight people,” Khan said.

Habib added that he wants others facing the same application process to “have hope” and not give up.

“I’d like to say to other people in situations that might be like mine or similar, is that you just have to have hope,” he said. “Trust yourself. When I first started, I didn’t think that I was going to make it to this period, to the end, you know?”

He said that it was important to “trust” yourself, and not listen to those trying to sway you from applying.

“There’s so many struggles throughout the way, people will tell you at the very beginning that you shouldn’t be doing this, it’s not the right thing. But you have to trust yourself and trust your guts.”

His partner, Penne, added that “everyone should be themselves” because “love always wins”.

Penner explained: “I know they will be scared, of course. There will be people, of course, that won’t support them. But also there’s going to be a tremendous amount of people that will support them, and will still love them no matter what. So saying that, of course, I believe that love always wins, you know?”

Related topics: advice, Americas, Canada, Canada, Egypt, LGBT, refugee

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