An asylum seeker who fled Morocco for fear he could be imprisoned for being gay has criticised the Home Office for claiming fears about returning to his country were dismissed.
Abderrahim El Habachi came to the UK two years ago. As a gay man, he faced the threat of violence and imprisonment because of his sexuality.
‘’There is a big hostility towards the LGBT community,’’ Abderrahim said.
‘’It was always, ‘hide yourself, hide yourself,’ and don’t show your colours. If you show your colours it means that you are going to face the most discriminatory behaviour and homophobia.’’
Many LGBT people in Morocco live with the constant fear of violence but the threat of imprisonment makes victims reluctant to speak out.
‘’If people sense that you are gay, they can beat you - and you have no right to complain.
“You are the victim at that moment but in the eyes of the law, you are the criminal because you are gay.’’
Abderrahim claims his concerns about the discrimination he might face if he were to return to Morocco have not been taken seriously. He says he has also seen many others face scepticism when declaring their sexuality to authorities in the UK.
’There are a huge community coming to Wales to live their life in an authentic way, especially the LGBT community. I am one of them.
‘’The Home Office are putting people through hell because they don’t believe their sexual orientation or the struggles we are facing in our countries.
“When we come here we have a lot of dreams and we are following that rainbow but somehow the rainbow is stripped from us.
We need allies to help us accomplish that dream.’’
The Home Office said asylum claims based on sexual orientation are handled by experienced caseworkers and individuals are only returned to their country of origin when they and courts deem it is safe to do so.
The UK has a proud record of providing protection for asylum seekers fleeing persecution because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Now in Wales, Abderrahim feels like he finally has the freedom to be himself.
"Having the freedom to walk in the street and hold my partners hand without anyone criticising, it’s really eye-opening and life-changing too."
Abderrahim is an active member of the LGBT community and sits on a committee for Glitter Cymru, a group for BAME LGBT people. He takes part in Pride in solidarity with all the LGBT friends he left behind in Morocco.
‘’Pride is a bittersweet moment,’’ he said.
‘’As someone who has fled his country and fled the discrimination, when I’m marching in Pride it’s a reminder of what I left behind me and a reminder that I am free now.
‘’I am proud of who I am but bitter because I know I’ve left a lot of people behind who look like me, who are feeling like me and who are part of my community behind.
‘’When I wave the pride flag, it’s a celebration for who I left behind. That’s how important it is to me.’’