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Benjamin, homosexual stranded in Niger: “Here, it’s dangerous for people like us”

Benjamin (first name has been changed) fled his native Cameroon because of his sexual orientation. Landed in Niger, he has been waiting for two years for the processing of his asylum application. The authorities, who are preparing to pass a law criminalizing homosexuality, refuse to process his file. The young man asks UNHCR to be resettled in another country. Testimony.

“One day, I was with my boyfriend in my room and I was surprised by my parents. I am part of a family of imams, homosexuality is forbidden in my house. My relatives beat me up and wanted to stick a knife in my anus. I managed to dodge and I was scarred on the buttock. My uncle yelled at me, telling me that I was tarnishing the image and reputation of my family.

Seriously injured, I still managed to escape. I was completely naked. On the road, people helped me and gave me clothes. I fled Cameroon by getting on a boat on the Bénoué [principal affluent du fleuve Niger qui s’étend jusqu’au Nigéria, ndlr] and I joined Nigeria.

I did odd jobs and a little sleeve. When I collected enough money, I paid smugglers to go to Niger. My goal was to reach a European country to have a better life and no longer hide because of my sexual orientation. But the road is winding and I was afraid of being attacked on the way so I stayed in Niamey.

“My asylum application is blocked”

As soon as I arrived in Niger in 2021, I was taken care of in the UNHCR center [Haut-commissariat des Nations unies aux réfugiés, ndlr]. I filed my asylum file with the Nigerien authorities but they categorically refuse to process it because of my homosexuality. It is very badly seen here too.

In Niger, the deputies are preparing to pass a law criminalizing homosexuality. Until then, a legal vacuum surrounded the question. Many African countries still penalize homosexuality (prison and/or death penalty): Mauritania, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Cameroon, Guinea, Togo, Senegal…

The government does not accept LGBT refugees, they think that our sexual orientations contaminate their society.

>> To (re)read: “We are tired of living like prisoners”: the weariness of LGBT migrants stranded in Niger

Result: my request is blocked and nothing progresses. For two years, I am still waiting. It’s long ! Some, in the same situation as me, have been waiting for four or even five years. We have no other solution.

“I was attacked in the street several times”

As the authorities refuse to listen to us, we ask the UNHCR to be resettled in another country, not necessarily in Europe. It can also be in a neighboring country of Niger. But the UNHCR doesn’t listen to us either. All we want is for our files to be processed and to be accepted by the population.

In Niger, it’s dangerous for people like us. Pictures of me protesting outside UNHCR premises with rainbow flags [symbole des personnes LGBT, ndlr] were published in the press.

>> To (re)read: In France, a difficult asylum for LGBT migrants

Shortly after, I was assaulted in the street several times. I was told: ‘He’s the p***, he’s bringing the curse to our country’.

The baker from whom I always go to buy bread insulted me and spat on me. For a long time, I went out with a scarf over my face so as not to be recognized.

In the UNHCR center too I am sometimes the target. Some migrants are homophobic, they insult me ​​and can be violent.

I just want to live in peace in a country that will accept me.”

France 24-Trans

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