Sitting in an armchair by the window of the Outhouse library, Capel Street, Patrick is sharing his story of seeking asylum in Ireland with Peg Leeson.
Well-spoken and confident there are moments during the conversation when he looks down and fidgets with his fingers or hugs his knees, subtle indicators that his journey was not an easy one. Patrick secured his status with the help of BeLonG To’s Asylum Seekers and Refugee Project because where he comes from it is illegal to be gay.
How did you end up seeking asylum in Ireland for your sexuality?
I came to Ireland because I wanted to live a normal life. From a very young age I knew that I was gay. Being gay is a big no-no in my country. Especially if you behave in a certain way. I’ve always been ‘girlie’, that is just me, so it was very obvious to people. I knew that this is where I wanted to be and be myself without people pointing fingers and without the abuse…Where I am from is a dangerous country to be gay in. Once people know that you are gay, the bullying and the teasing is always there, and nobody will do anything about it. Even in cases where you are raped, nobody would take you seriously. It is not considered a crime. A lot of gay men have to live their lives in the closet. And some of them they become bitter, even violent towards someone they see as more out there. That was even the case with me as well in high-school. There were some boys there who I’m sure were gay, it was quite obvious, but they just took their frustration out on me.
Making the decision to seek asylum was very hard because I would have to leave my family. I wanted to go back home but I couldn’t because of my sexuality and that was the thing that was keeping me here. I love my family but my sexuality is something that they wouldn’t understand.
What was the asylum process like?
It was really hard. It almost felt impossible. I felt like I had to prove myself all over again. When I was being asked my story, I know it a procedure that has to be done, but it made me feel offended. Because for so many years I knew what I was, and then I had to prove myself again and get other people involved
. It is in the rules that if someone is seeking asylum on the basis of sexuality they really have to prove it themselves. But some people are masculine and some are not. I had the opportunity [to start the process] because I had been through so much and I was so tired, that I just wanted to escape. I knew what I was going to do. I started going to Outhouse and BeLonG To and that helped me a lot. They took me in as one of their own.
What were your experiences of living under direct-provision?
I stayed in the hostels for 7 or 8 months. It was a difficult environment. Again, I felt like I had to go back into my shell. Especially with people from my own part of the world, people of my own kind. I didn’t want to have to tell people that I was gay. I was sharing a room with other guys, masculine men, so I couldn’t be all girlie because the people there, they have their own issues. Some people have lived there for so many years that they are frustrated. I didn’t want that to happen to me.
Your own application was processed relatively quickly?
Yes, it was. I think it was a mixture of things. I had these amazing people [BeLonG To and Outhouse] behind me. The authorities listened to my story and believed me. But some people don’t have that. I know who I was, but some people coming from my country they don’t even want to associate with homosexuality or go to gay places even though they are gay. They would be so nervous. Because they would feel like they are being judged. Trust me, I can relate to that. I remember when I first visited the Outhouse walking around outside the door contemplating whether I should walk in or not, because of that fear. So most people are like that. But for me I was like ‘I haven’t came all this way not to’.
So, once you got asylum what happened then?
After getting my asylum I was looking for a place to stay and all those things but I was still living in the hostels. It was so hard for me to to start over after winning the asylum. I felt like I was just thrown into the world alone. There were no support services. I found house-hunting very hard. I couldn’t get welfare because I didn’t have an address. I visited so many places but the minute you mentioned rent allowance the landlords were like no, no, no. They don’t want it. Soon after I got my status I got a job, and then I saved and I saved so I could go to college. When I got my asylum I went to the local authority to see if I could get a grant and apply to college and they said I can’t because I have to have lived here for three years. So I went to private college. I don’t like just sitting around, so I pay my own fees.
Patrick, you asked for certain details to be withheld from this article, why?
Yes, I asked for those details to be withheld because I don’t want to be identified within the ex-pat community from my home country living here in Ireland. There are rumours, and I don’t want to be identified as the gay. It all has to do with the whole issue of being gay and being where I am from, not just my country but the region. I think still that needs to be addressed, there is so much hate from my region towards homosexuality. There are so many gays from my region who are afraid to come out because there is so much hatred. Like sometimes I meet other out gay men from my region but it is still strage to me. It has to do with the fear, the fear of coming out. Lke when you are walking in and out of the George you have to look around, so no one sees you. I don’t want to be labelled. I think it has to do with hate issues that I have because of the treatment that I got back home.
Finally Patrick, what are your hopes for the future?
I have so many hopes. I would like to get a nice job and go further with my education. But first I would like to see my family again, that is my big hope. Because it is scary not knowing if I will get to see them again. I wish I could hug my Mum and hold my Dad and my siblings. I would love for just one day to see them, and maybe explain to them what has happened. That is what I pray for. Other then that, a good life. Get married, have kids, yeah that is what I want to do.If you, or somebody you know, may need to contact BeLonG To’s Asylum Seekers and Refugee Project you can contact Marissa, email@example.com, or John, John@belongto.org, at Ph: 01 670 6223 Mob: 085 888 9191