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New Group Helps Seek Asylum For LGBT Victims Of Persecution

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Christian leaders from the North Side and a couple of men from Nigeria who are seeking asylum in the United States have launched a new asylum support group for those in the Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-and-Transgender (LGBT) community.

Dennis Akpona is co-founder of the group, CLASP (Chicago LGBT Asylum Support Program).

Akpona said he came to the United States in 2012, ostensibly to attend an international AIDS conference in Washington D.C. He’s now seeking asylum in the United States, and said he could be stoned to death in his native Nigeria for being gay.

“My life was at risk. I needed a safe place to be. USA is less homophobic,” Akpona said.

CLASP plans to offer basic services to those in the LGBT community who are seeking asylum — such as food, clothing, and housing, if possible.

Rev. Lois Parr of the Broadway United Methodist Church said right now donations are being accepted for those basic services but, long-term, “a dream would be to have a house; a house that could be a safe house, an asylum house”.

Akpona pointed out that just being gay is reason enough to be put in prison in more than 75 countries around the world, and in 7 of those countries — including Nigeria — gays can be sentenced to death.

Another co-founder of CLASP, John Ademola Adewoye, came to the United States in 1999 as a Catholic priest, and sought asylum after that.

Adewoye now helps house those seeking asylum. He said there are five people living with him, and estimated there are around 20 gay people who live in Chicago now who are seeking asylum in the United States.

He says, in Nigeria, “my life as a gay man was dark.”

Andy Thayer, of the Gay Liberation Network, said the United States must change its ways when it comes to granting asylum.

“We have a problem of more people needing to flee rather than less, yet the United States has been dramatically closing our borders to asylum seekers” of all kinds, not just in the LGBT community, Thayer said.

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