News / Vancouver

Gay Syrian man in Vancouver speaks out about Canada's refugee plan

Danny Ramadan is concerned Ottawa's plan to prioritize refugee status for gay men could put them at risk for discrimination or even violence.

Danny Ramadan, a gay Syrian refugee living in Vancouver, is concerned Canada's plan to prioritize refugee status for gay men could put them at risk for discrimination or even violence.

Courtesy Qmunity

Danny Ramadan, a gay Syrian refugee living in Vancouver, is concerned Canada's plan to prioritize refugee status for gay men could put them at risk for discrimination or even violence.

A gay Syrian refugee living in Vancouver says is he concerned Canada’s plan to prioritize refugee status for single men only if they identify as gay, bisexual or transgender could cause more problems for an already vulnerable group.

“If I was a refugee in a camp at the moment and I went out and went to the Canadian embassy and applied for refugee status, that’s basically outing myself to the whole refugee camp,” Danny Ramadan told Metro. “[That would] be putting myself in extreme danger.”

The Liberal government revealed Tuesday its promise to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of February, giving priority to complete families, women at risk, members of sexual minorities and single men only if they are identified as gay, bisexual or transgender or are travelling as part of a family.

While he is glad to see the Canada welcome gay Syrians as refugees, Danny Ramadan said he worries that the requirement could put many in the LGBTQ community at risk of discrimination or even violence.

Born and raised in Syria, Ramadan arrived in Canada with his partner Aamar as privately-sponsored refugees last September.

Ramadan first left Syria at the age of 18 “because of family pressure” after he told them he is gay, he said. In 2011, he returned to the country but described his life there as “extremely difficult.”

Although he wanted to live as a “proud, out-of-the-closet gay man,” Ramadan said he could not do so without putting his life at risk.

“I felt like I was living on the outskirts of the society,” he said. “I could never be my true self.”

Homosexuality is not only widely rejected in Syria, but it is illegal and punishable by three years in prison, he said.

“That’s a death sentence in itself,” he said. “I can’t imagine spending three years in prison while everyone knows I’m homosexual surrounded by criminals and pedophiles and killers.”

Ramadan said he was forced to flee Syria following a close call with police after he converted his one-bedroom apartment into a “makeshift underground centre” that provided housing and support for members of the LGBTQ community.

“I managed to escape arrest,” he said. “But I had to leave the country overnight because of it.”

Now living in Vancouver, Ramadan works for Qmunity, B.C.’s queer resource centre, and has started to build a life in Canada with his partner.

While he believes Ottawa is on the right track with its refugee plan, Ramadan said he hopes the federal government will eventually open the doors to more Syrians.

He said there are many single heterosexual men who escaped the country, either because their families died, they did not want to be recruited to join the Syrian army or they feared being forced by ISIS to become terrorists.

He said he believes anyone from Syria who wants to seek refuge should be allowed in.

“My partner left the country because there is a possibility that they would have called him back to the army,” he said. “Not including straight men is basically a form of discrimination based on sexual orientation.”

Metro Savers