At least one T&T national was granted asylum in the United States last year, based on the claim that he faced continued persecution in this country as a result of his sexual orientation. Immigration Equality (IE), a US-based human rights NGO, handled 37 asylum claims from T&T in 2010. There were 38 successful actions by Jamaican nationals and four from Grenada. The names of applicants are not usually disclosed and not all claims are handled by the organisation. Legislative shortcomings that do not address discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation were cited in most instances.
“In many cases, the clients who turn to Immigration Equality for help are literally running for their lives,” IE executive director Rachel B Tiven said in a press release. This, US-based Puerto Rican immigration attorney Sheila Velez said, frequently occurs because there was a lack of access to adequate anti-discrimination legislation in the Caribbean and the result can often be acts of violence including torture and outright job and other discrimination. Local activists do not believe such claims were exaggerated.
Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) spokesman, Cyrus Sylvester, told the Guardian: “While some may be of the opinion that this claim is overstated, for many members of the GLBT community here in Trinidad and Tobago, persecution based on sexual orientation is a frightening reality. “While all claims for asylum will not be of the same merit, I strongly believe that some of these cases can amount to legitimate claims for asylum in other, more tolerant societies,” he said, adding he was aware of other successful applications in Canada and Europe.
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