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A gay man who was refused asylum by U.S. immigration officials should have his case reconsidered, a federal court has ruled.
The man, who is in his late 20s, fled his home in Accra, Ghana, after his father attacked and threatened to behead him after learning he was gay and had been in a secret relationship with a male friend, the Associated Press reports.
During the attack, his father reportedly formed a violent mob with neighbors and proceeded to beat the man and his partner, douse them in kerosene, and discuss whether to burn them alive or behead them as punishment. The man was able to flee, naked and bleeding, after someone in the crowd produced a sword.
But despite the attack — and the belief that if he returned to Ghana his father, who has disowned him, would kill him — immigration officials last year rejected the man’s petition for asylum because he had only been attacked once.
His lawyer, Adrian Roe, told the Associated Press that the U.S. government had argued “that one [attack] does not create a significant incident, or does not constitute past persecution.”
The immigration judge who heard his case even told the man to keep “his homosexuality a secret” when he returned home in order to “live a full life,” court documents revealed.
The judge also asked “explicit” questions about the man’s sexual relations, “going so far as to ask about sexual positions.”
The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals has now overturned the initial decision, ruling that the man — whose name was withheld to protect his identity — does have sufficient justification for an asylum petition.
In his ruling, Judge L. Felipe Restrepo noted that, had the man not been able to escape the mob that attacked him, “he might very well be dead.”
“[He] was threatened with death by fire or decapitation while being assaulted, doused with fuel and exposed to a cutlass,” Restrepe wrote. “All that was left for the mob to do was to cut off his head or set him on fire.”
Restrepe also criticized questions about the man’s sexual history, saying it was “unclear” why they were relevant to the asylum claim and calling them “off base and inappropriate.”
He wrote that the man “qualifies as a refugee,” and ordered immigration officials to reconsider the asylum claim in line with that ruling.
Homosexuality is illegal in Ghana, with consensual same-sex sexual acts punishable by up to three years in prison.
Same-sex unions are not recognized, and LGBTQ people have no legal protections against discrimination.
In a 2017 ILGA poll, 91% of Ghanaians said that people in same-sex relationships should be charged as criminals, and one third of respondents said they would try to “change” a neighbor’s sexuality if they learned the neighbor was gay.
In 2018, Ghana’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo, told religious leaders that the government would not decriminalize homosexuality and had “no plans” to allow same-sex marriage.
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