Photo: Herzl Yosef
The Population and Immigration Authority (PIA) recently granted asylum to a 26-year-old gay Eritrean man on the grounds that his returning to his country would endanger his life due to his sexual orientation.
The Eritrean was born in the capital of Asmara and forced into military service at the age of 17. In 2009, he tried to flee his country through the border into Ethiopia, but he was caught and incarcerated for 16 months. Afterwards, he was returned to his military service.
He hid the fact that he was gay whilst in his home country, where it is illegal and entails a prison sentence of up to three years.
In 2011, he managed to flee to Israel and stayed with a person he knew from Eritrea. After other tenants discovered his sexual orientation, however, he was thrown out of his apartment and began living in Tel Aviv's Levinsky Park. Since then, however, he managed to rehabilitate his life, find a job and rent an apartment by himself.
His lawyer, Oded Dugma, filed his asylum application in 2014. Dugma welcomed PIA's decision, "My client lived in the closet his entire time in Eritrea, and contrary to other cases that I've handled, he wasn't tortured or imprisoned for long stretches in his country of origin because of his sexual orientation. Nonetheless, the Interior Ministry accepted our position regarding the danger to him due to his coming out of the closet in Israel.
"I would hope that the decision also stemmed from the consideration presented whereby returning a gay asylum seeker to a homophobic country means a life of fear, self-hatred and lack of freedom, or in other words: a violation of his human dignity. I can only wish the asylum seeker an easy and quick integration into Israeli society."
The Eritrean has been granted renewable temporary residence, which grants him the right to work and access to social and health benefits.