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LAO responds to news coverage of Nigerian LGBTQ refugee claims

Friday, November 10, 2017

LAO is concerned about the possible impact on refugee claimants flowing from a story that appeared on The National and other news outlets on November 8th and 9th about Nigerian LGBTQ claimants.

In mid-October, Legal Aid Ontario was contacted by CBC news to confirm facts with regard to an investigation that the CBC was doing on allegedly false LGBTQ refugee claims from Nigeria. The CBC explained that this investigation followed their own analysis of data on Nigerian claims from the IRB and asked for information from LAO. CBC indicated that they were seeking information about LAO's monitoring of refugee lawyers on LAO's panel as well as confirmation of the allegations.

LAO was unable to confirm the accuracy of the allegations as LAO is still looking into the matter. LAO could, however, confirm that they have written to 5 lawyers (out of a panel of approximately 350) seeking to understand whether there is a basis to any suspicions. As LAO explained in interviews with the CBC, LAO has a rigorous panel standards and quality review regime to assess the representation provided to our clients.

LAO cautions stakeholders and the public not to draw any adverse conclusions about refugee claimants from this highly vulnerable and marginalized community based simply on perceived similarities to other claims. Canada has a highly professional and experienced independent tribunal with statutory authority to assess the credibility of refugee claims following an oral hearing. It is there alone that the credibility of refugee claims are properly assessed. There should be no negative inferences made about claimants because of who is representing them.

The reality is that members of sexual minority communities are being targeted and brutally persecuted in Nigeria and fit squarely within the refugee definition in international law, as do members of other persecuted groups in Nigeria.