TEL AVIV – Israel granted asylum to a gay Eritrean man on the grounds that returning to his home country – where homosexuality is illegal – would endanger his life.
The man, who was born in the Eritrean capital of Asmara, was forced into military service at the age of 17, Israel’s Ynet news reported. After attempting to flee the country in 2009 via the border with Ethiopia, the 26-year-old was caught and incarcerated for 16 months. He was returned to the military following his release.
While in Eritrea, the man hid his sexual orientation. Homosexuality in Eritrea in punishable by a prison sentence of up to three years.
In 2011, the man successfully fled to Israel and stayed with a fellow Eritrean. However, after other migrants discovered that he was gay, he was thrown out of his apartment. He has since managed to rehabilitate his life, find a job and rent an apartment by himself, the report said.
In 2014, the man’s lawyer, Oded Dugma, filed application for asylum on his behalf. Dugma welcomed the Population and Immigration Authority’s decision: “My client lived in the closet his entire time in Eritrea, and contrary to other cases that I’ve handled, he wasn’t tortured or imprisoned for long stretches in his country of origin because of his sexual orientation. Nonetheless, the Interior Ministry accepted our position regarding the danger to him due to his coming out of the closet in Israel.”
“I would hope that the decision also stemmed from the consideration presented whereby returning a gay asylum seeker to a homophobic country means a life of fear, self-hatred and lack of freedom, or in other words: a violation of his human dignity. I can only wish the asylum seeker an easy and quick integration into Israeli society,” Dugma added.
The PIA granted the Eritrean renewable temporary residence, which affords him the right to work and gives him access to social and health benefits.