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Gay Malaysian student who hopes to stay in Winnipeg to learn fate in April

Hazim Ismail, 27, has applied for refugee status after he was outed as gay in his home country of Malaysia, where being gay is a crime punishable by jail time.

Hazim Ismail

Austin Grabish/Metro

Hazim Ismail

An international University of Winnipeg student who was disowned by his family after being outed as gay will find out if he gets to stay in Canada at an upcoming refugee hearing.

Hazim Ismail will plead his case before an adjudicator at the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada with a lawyer on April 8. He is seeking permanent residency out of fear he’ll face persecution if he’s sent back home to Malaysia.

Ismail said he’s ‘extremely nervous’ about the hearing and hasn’t been able to sleep properly since finding out about it last Friday.

“It’s giving me a lot of anxiety,” Ismail, 27, said.

“At this point, I think I feel like I might as well have it tattooed on my forehead because I’m dreading that day.”

Ismail made headlines last December after starting a GoFundMe page to cover the cost of tuition after he was cut off by his family.

Ever since he’s been bombarded with hate mail, received death threats, and harassed by Malaysian media outlets.

On Tuesday, the negative publicity continued with Harian Metro, one of the country’s tabloids, publishing a blurred photo of his face on the front page and Facebook conversations he said were private.

“If you get a translator and read the latest article in the Malaysian Metro they’re shaming me…,” Ismail said.

A photo of a Malaysian newspaper where Hazim's face has been splashed across it.


A photo of a Malaysian newspaper where Hazim's face has been splashed across it.

Refugee Board spokesperson Melissa Anderson said while she couldn’t comment on a specific case, an adjudicator will appear via video conference at the Winnipeg hearing to collect evidence proving the case falls within the realms of the UN’s Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

“The bottom line is they’re looking to see whether someone has a well-founded fear of persecution based on the five convention grounds, which is nationality, race, religion, membership of a particular social group or political opinion,” she said via phone when reached in Vancouver.

Anderson said a decision will likely be given at the end of the hearing, which could last anywhere from two – three hours.

If denied, Anderson said Ismail can file for an appeal, but there’s a short timeframe somewhere around a month to do so, she said.

Ismail isn’t sure what he’ll do if he’s sent home as sodomy is a criminal offence in Malaysia that carries a punishment of up to 20 years in prison.

“I feel like at this point I would get arrested. What happens beyond that I don’t know for sure,” he said.

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