On Sep 29, 2016 The Toronto Star reported: Yvonne Niwahereza Jele has new evidence to prove she faces persecution in her homeland, but it can’t be heard because rules forbid an appeal.
An article appeared in Uganda’s hello! newspaper in July that says Yvonne Niwahereza Jele is wanted by police for allegedly being involved in unnatural acts.
Five weeks after her asylum claim was denied, Yvonne Niwahereza Jele says, she got a text from an angry uncle in Uganda who had learned — from a local newspaper — that she is gay and wanted by police.
That news story — an item about her in the July 17 edition of the Ugandan tabloid hello!, under the headline “City Socialite Hunted Over Lesbo Links” — came too late for the asylum seeker.
Now in Toronto, Jele, 29, believes the article may be the best proof she has to support her claim that she had been jailed, tortured and persecuted in Uganda for being gay.
But she can’t introduce that new evidence. Under changes to immigration rules made by the former Conservative government, she isn’t eligible to appeal the refugee board’s decision.
Immigration Minister John McCallum is the only person who can grant her a reprieve from being sent back to Uganda, a country where homosexuality is outlawed and punishable by life in prison, according to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. Border enforcement officials this week denied her request to defer her deportation, scheduled for Saturday.
A judicial review application with the Federal Court of Canada on the refugee board’s decision is pending. Even if the court hears the case, it can only review the decision on its legal merits — and not on new evidence such as the news article that outed Jele.
“Please give me protection,” Jele pleaded in an interview with the Star. “I have nowhere to go. People saw me in the paper. They are going to kill me. I just want a chance to live an ordinary life and have some freedom.”
Proving one’s sexual orientation to a refugee judge remains a challenge for such claimants, said immigration lawyer Michael Battista, who chairs the Rainbow Railroad, a Toronto group that helps LGBTQ individuals facing persecution abroad.
“The verification of someone’s sexual orientation and identity is so critical to their claims. Their cases stand or fall based on the decision-makers’ belief in their membership of the community,” said Battista, who has represented thousands of gay and lesbian refugees in his 25-year career.
“Unlike claimants on other grounds such as race, religion and political (affiliation), LGBTQ claimants have no membership card or physical appearance to prove (their sexual orientation). They are an invisible minority.”