March 09, 2009

U.S. to Reconsider Gay Man’s Asylum Denial

Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Friday, March 06, 2009

Federal immigration officials have agreed to reconsider a preliminary decision to deny granting political asylum to a gay Sierra Leone man who says he faces anti-gay persecution and possible death if forced to return there.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Asylum Office has invited Dunrick Sogie-Thomas, 29, of Hyattsville, Md., to be re-interviewed at the office Monday, according to his attorney, Christopher Nugent.

“Needless to say, Dunrick and we are very pleased since he now has a newfound opportunity to prove his case for asylum with a new [immigration] officer and while represented by counsel,” Nugent said.

In a Nov. 19 notice, an immigration official said Sogie-Thomas failed to provide sufficient evidence that he would be subjected to arrest, torture and possibly death if forced to return to Sierra Leone, where gay sex is a crime punishable by up to life in prison.

Nugent said Sogie-Thomas submitted his original application for asylum — and appeared for a required interview — without the help of an attorney.

Nugent said he was hopeful that the additional information he and his law firm submitted to the Asylum Office after he became Sogie-Thomas’s pro-bono counsel would convince the office that his client qualifies for asylum. Nugent will accompany Sogie-Thomas to Monday’s interview.

Sogie-Thomas was outed last year in his home city of Freetown, Sierra Leone, after police raided the apartment of his domestic partner and confiscated photos of the two men engaging in sex with each other in the apartment. Sogie-Thomas fled to the U.S., where he has relatives, after receiving word that authorities were about to question him after learning he’s gay. He was not implicated in an investigation into his partner’s alleged involvement in a cocaine distribution operation, a development that triggered the police raid.

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