In Belgium, posing as a homosexual is the latest trick to get refugee status or benefit from the subsidiary protection by the Office of the Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons (CGRA).
Originally from Ziguinchor, Fatouma* now lives in Liège near La Batte. The Senegalese woman, who moved to Belgium just over two years ago, obtained her residence permit in a rather unorthodox fashion. Fatouma was called in for an interview at the CGRA, the office that assesses refugee applications and ultimately grants refugee or subsidiary protection status to various foreign immigrants.
“I bought a made-up story from a Guinean man in Brussels. He told me to pose as a lesbian who was abused in her home country,” says Fatouma. The subsidiary protection status she enjoys was granted to her in five months.
Mamadou*, another pretend gay, shares his story: “I obtained my residence permit by lying to the CGRA. I posed as a homosexual and applied for asylum at the border. I later received a proof of application in the form of an appendix 25, which was not an authorisation to reside on Belgian soil. When one applies for asylum at the Immigration Office, in a prison or detention centre, one receives an appendix 26… I did, however, receive my residence permit a few months later.”
Lucrative fake stories
Selling fake life stories has become a lucrative business. A group of professional story-makers hang around refugee shelters. The hub of this business is in Petit-Château in Brussels.
A storyline can cost up to 200 Euros. Senegalese and Guinean nationals are the “go-to people”, as they like to say. “They coach each other through emails. I know many Senegalese nationals involved in this business. They support each other. Guineans are now taking over,” explains one asylum seeker.
They are the uncontested kings. They guide newcomers from West Africa: those whose applications were rejected in Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal, and who come to Belgium or France for a second chance at obtaining refugee status.
What about the real gays?
Jan Beddeleem, founder of WISH (Workgroup for the International Solidary of Homosexuals), an organisation based in the Belgian city of Anvers, is outraged by these fake gays. “These permits are fraudulent! They were obtained with a lie: a made-up homosexual life story! And they have the nerve to sell these concoctions!”
These pretend gays could be endangering real homosexuals like Cedric* from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He was abused by his parents because of his sexual orientation. His father used to beat him often. One day, Schmidts and Linda, a German couple, decided to help Cedric get to Europe.
On the morning of 28 July 2012, the Congolese nightmare was now over for Cedric as he landed in Belgium. “Four days after my arrival, my cousin Nadia took me to the Immigration Office where I had to register as an asylum seeker,” explains the young man. “I was then sent to Petit-Château in Brussels. And I was interviewed by the CGRA three weeks later.”
Both the CGRA and the Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration were not available for comments.
The DRC has the highest numbers of asylum seekers
According to the Office of the Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons, the number of asylum applications in July 2013 has decreased by 29.8 per cent to 1311, compared to last year.
The asylum seekers mostly come from the Democratic Republic of Congo (8.4% of the applications), Guinea (7.2%), Afghanistan (7.1%), Russia (6.4%) and Kosovo (6%). Syria, Iraq, Rwanda, Serbia and Senegal complete the top ten.
In July 2013, the CGRA deliberated on 1480 applications, approving 320 asylum applications and granting 143 subsidiary protections.
* The names have been changed to protected the identities of the individuals