It is difficult for Rayan (not his real name) to say out loud that he is homosexual, but every time he does so and observes that the reaction around him is not the same as what he learned since he was a child in his country, Morocco, he breathes easy and reduces nerves for The next. A week ago he had to do it in front of several police officers, an interpreter and a volunteer at the Ceuta asylum office. He wanted to ask for international protection and say that that was the reason why he swam around the border breakwater of Tarajal just over a month ago.
The first state reception center for LGTBI refugees opens: “It is a space between equals”
Among the nearly 10,000 migrants who entered the city of Ceuta on May 17 and 18, there were several asylum seekers who, like Rayan, left Morocco, due to threats or discrimination suffered because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity in a country where homosexuality by law. After living for weeks in the streets of Ceuta, hiding during the days when the police beat the city with the aim of making returns with little paperwork, six LGBTI Moroccans have requested protection at the Tarajal border, according to data from Andalucía Acoge .
Shortly after leaving the office, Rayan, 21, burst into tears with the Ceuta neighbor who has supported him and has been with him for weeks: “I have felt very comfortable being able to tell what I am, in my country I cannot express myself like this. When I have told it, nobody has looked at me like an insect. “Rayan was not excited by the security that the possible confirmation of the study of his asylum request would bring him, since it has not yet been admitted for processing, but only because he feels that During the time he was in that office, he was able to express himself without fear.
That feeling of release, however, did not last long. Hours after requesting asylum due to his sexual orientation, Rayan speaks with elDiario.es by video call from inside a vehicle. It is very hot and the windows are foggy, but he does not want to roll down the car windows for fear that his words will be heard by those who, he thinks, would not understand him. “Outside are the people I sleep with, they are from my country, and I think they suspect what I am. I’m afraid they will do something to me,” says the young man, originally from the Moroccan town of Castillejos, on the border with Ceuta.
He talks about the weight that has been lifted after the interview, about the joy he felt just for not feeling judged after talking about his sexual orientation but, while he tells it, his face no longer shows the happiness of a few hours before. Now he is worried again: “I have felt very liberated, but night is approaching and I know that I am going to have to return to the mountains, where I am afraid that they will hit me for being who I am,” he said heatedly. “The way they have listened to me has been like an illusion, but I still feel like a slave, I am not liberated yet because I have to go back to the real world.”
Vulnerable profiles on the street
That “real world” is the shack built on a hill in Ceuta with his companions, where he has spent most of the nights since his arrival in Spain. It’s that “sixth sense” that tells you that you don’t fit in. “I don’t feel safe. The situation on the street is getting more and more complicated, there are fights … They convey a kind of veiled threat to me. I think they see me differently and that makes me be alert all the time.”
That is why he refuses to roll up the car windows, even though the sweat is already falling on his forehead: “I notice your rejection. I try not to say too many words to them, so they don’t realize that I am homosexual.”
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), LGTBI applicants require “a supportive environment throughout the refugee status determination procedure, including prior selection, so that they can present their applications fully and without afraid”. A safe environment is, according to the UN Agency, “important during consultations with legal representatives”.
Andalucía Acoge has included its name in a list of vulnerable population sent to the Government Delegation this week, with the aim that the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migrations accept its entry into the Center for the Temporary Stay of Immigrants (CETI), where they only allow access to asylum seekers in a situation of “vulnerability”. His case has also been notified to UNHCR.
According to the Secretary of State for Migration, on which the CETI of Ceuta depends, his team is “studying each case” transferred to the Government Delegation by social entities and UNHCR. “Entry is ordered prioritizing the most vulnerable: women, women with children, sick people … This prioritization allows the most vulnerable not to remain on the street,” say sources from the institution.
Rayan was awaiting an answer, enduring that contained tension every night, when this week one of the boys he slept with was attacked. According to his testimony, some shackmates kicked him out of the place where he slept. Rayan, scared, called the Ceuta neighbor who has supported him for weeks, who prefers to remain anonymous. “He called me very overwhelmed. He was terrified and that night I let him sleep in my car,” says the man, who has managed to get a relative to take him in temporarily. “They told him not to come back. They did not want homosexuals in the group for fear that they would attack them,” he explains.
Need for specialized care for LGTBI refugees
Rayan is still waiting to enter the reception center in the city. However, the CETIs of Ceuta and Melilla are not suitable places for LGTBI asylum seekers either, given that their cases need specialized attention, according to the Ombudsman and the Spanish Commission for Refugee Aid (CEAR), which has been years request the prioritization of the transfer to the peninsula of the people of the group.
“The fact of belonging to the LGTBI collective is a cause of vulnerability in itself and their transfer should be prioritized and their particular reception needs guaranteed, especially if the interested parties affirm that they suffer humiliating treatment or insults”, recommended by the Ombudsman in 2017. “For some years, situations of LGTBI asylum seekers who have suffered attacks in the CETI have become chronic, as it is a temporary care center that lacks the specialized care that these profiles require,” says CEAR lawyer Paloma Favieres, during the presentation of the organization’s annual report.
“If these people are not in specialized accommodation, they run the risk of living with their own aggressors again. You cannot be obliged to hide your sex-affective identity. Send noses that, you come to Spain to ask for protection and you have to keep hiding it in order to be able to If that happens, you can see that something is wrong with the protection: you have to be able to be you at all times, “says Mónica Ávila, from the NGO Rescate Internacional, which has specialized reception flats for asylum seekers from the LGTBI group.
According to CEAR, in recent years, the granting of protection to asylum seekers on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity has increased, although disaggregated official figures are unknown. Just five years ago, it was common for the Ministry of the Interior – during the Popular Party government – to reject a high percentage of these requests, appealing that, if the plaintiffs were “discreet”, they would not have to flee to Spain, as they denounced then specialized organizations. Some claimants for protection were also subjected to tests or questions about their sexual practices. After years of complaints from social entities, these practices “have been left behind,” Favieres details.
Rayan’s double life
If Rayan has migrated to Ceuta and has spent almost a month living on the streets, it is because he has been “discreet” for too long and wants to stop being so. He wants to start being himself. “In Morocco I am not free, I cannot be what I really am. I live a double life, imitating a personality that has nothing to do with me. I have endured death threats for being homosexual, so I have had to omit that part of my life”.
In his 21 years of life, he says, he has not dared to maintain a romantic relationship out of fear. “In the street I could not meet anyone, because I did not approach people from the group for fear that they would see me with them and threaten me,” says Rayan. Three years ago, she began dating a boy, the only one with whom she has had a special bond. Soon rumors about her sexual orientation began to spread through her neighborhood, she says, and the looks, the signs, and her fear soared, she says. “After being threatened, I decided to park that side of me. I focused on my studies and nothing else.” His plan was, once he finished his computer science training, to migrate to another place where he could be himself.
-Have you ever fallen in love?
-Not. I have fallen in love, but I have not fallen in love because I have struggled not to fall in love. We did not want either of us to suffer that lack of love, that they did not let us be together. Because I was not going to be happy, they were not going to let me be happy.
“For years, I decided to make people happy and be unhappy myself. I decided to show what I am not, to pretend that I am someone else,” says Rayan, recalling the reasons that pushed him to go around the border breakwater. When he finished his studies, the confinement arrived, the obstacles to getting a job increased and his anxiety soared: “I started to feel depressed, I was thinking too much about it.” On the afternoon of May 17, the young man was with the only friend with whom he talks about his homosexuality, when he began to see people running towards the border: “I didn’t think twice. I gave him my cell phone and my keys, I asked him to keep them for me. And I left. ”
His dream may not seem very ambitious, but for him it is: “I want to get to a place where no one will point me out for what I am. I don’t care where. I just want to feel free, don’t follow me as if I were an insect to be crushed. That I can have a coffee with a friend and talk freely about what I like. Make my life. A real life “.