LGBT asylum seekers granted refugee status in NZ

12:23 pm on 18 June 2017

At least 40 asylum seekers have been granted refugee status in New Zealand because of their sexual and gender orientation.

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Photo: 123rf

Twenty-five cases were approved by Immigration New Zealand in the past five years and further cases have been approved by an appeals tribunal based on lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender status.

The numbers approved by Immigration New Zealand have tripled from three in 2012 to nine this year, about 8 percent of all successful asylum applications.

In the most recent case, the Immigration and Deportation Tribunal granted refugee status to a bisexual Pakistani man, who lived with a transgender woman in Whangarei and Auckland

"The appellant does not wish to conduct a secret life," it said.

"He wishes to be able to live openly with a partner of his choosing. [Should] the appellant return to Pakistan and attempt to exercise his right to privacy, by freely choosing his sexual identity and forging meaningful relationships, there is a real chance he will experience violence, or worse, at the hands of police or vigilante groups.

"State protection is not available. The illegal status of same sex relationships means that the state contributes to the existence of risk."

A lesbian teacher from Russia also became a refugee this year, after arguing that anti-gay sentiment there since a law change in 2013 had led to assaults and abuse of LGBT people.

Two months earlier, the tribunal granted refugee status to a gay man from Myanmar living in New Zealand whose wife had discovered his sexuality through a Facebook page.

"The appellant told the tribunal that, now that he has a taste for living as an openly gay man, he will not go back to his previous hidden life if returned to Myanmar," it said.

"He stated that, while the body may live, the heart would die in such a situation and he will no longer hide who he is. His family, he believes, would beat him and may even kill him."

The first such case approved by the tribunal appears to be a 29-year-old Iranian man in 1995.

Among almost 20 successful appeals since then have included a gay Cuban man and a Fijian transgender person.

A bisexual woman from Zimbabwe told the tribunal her lesbian lover was killed when they were attacked by a group of men.

She was later raped by two men who told her that she would be taught to act like a woman.