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ADDED ON: 12/27/2020

Tears of joy as LGBTQ asylum seeker battered by police wins fight to stay in Liverpool

12/26/2020 | Liverpool Echo

An LGBTQ asylum seeker described their tears of joy when a judge said they could stay in Liverpool after fleeing murder, police brutality and discrimination in El Salvador. The artist, who now identifies as non-binary meaning they do not fully identify with either gender, came to the UK in 2017 from their native country after the murders of several LGBTQ friends. *Alex (not their real name) was desperate to escape a miserable and fearful life in their home country, where they say gay and transgender people, including around five friends, were regularly kidnapped, tortured and killed – with bodies sometimes found with their genitals removed. According to the charity Human Rights Watch, central American countries El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala have all failed to address violence and discrimination against the LGBTQ community. And the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees found widespread discrimination in El Salvador including from police and fiercely “macho” criminals gangs – who display “virulent hatred and ill-treatment of persons based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.” Alex describes feeling like “one of the lucky ones” for escaping, despite constant harassment and abuse, including being beaten up by a group of police officers who said “now we will teach you how to be a man.” Even after his traumatic experiences, Alex faced a three year battle with the Home Office after claiming asylum in the UK in October 2017. An Immigration Tribunal rejected Alex’s claim in September 2019, but that decision was overturned by Upper Immigration Tribunal judge Gaenor Bruce this year in a moment that reduced Alex to tears. Alex told the ECHO: “The judge turned to me and started speaking in Spanish, which is my first language. I didn’t know she spoke Spanish. “She told me she wanted to let me know in my own language that she accepted my asylum claim. “She said I have the right to be in the UK, I have the right to be free and I have the right to be who I want to be. “It was a highlight of my life, I started crying. Because that is when I knew I could have all the opportunities that were denied to me in El Salvador.”

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