A gay refugee who fled Ghana is about to be sent back to the town where, he says, a man calling himself “The Gay Slayer” is waiting to kill him.
After being violently attacked by an anti-gay mob in Accra, Sadat Ibrahim came to the U.S. by way of Mexico in 2016. Homosexuality is punishable by up to three years in prison in Ghana, and violence against the LGBT community goes mostly unchecked. (A politician running for president made one of his campaign promises putting gay people before firing squads.)
When interviewed by immigration officers, Ibrahim reported that one friend had been beaten by members of a gang called “the Safety Empire” and forced to disclose the names of other gay men. He also explained that, after luring gay men out on “dates,” gang members assault and publicly shame their victims. Ibrahim got word he’d been fingered, so he rushed home to make his escape.
Gang members broke into his apartment and attacked him before he could get away.
“They stabbed me and gave me a cut on my back and hand,” he told asylum officials. “I received treatment at the hospital. I couldn’t walk for one week,” Ibrahim told asylum officers. “The group posted the incident on the social media with a picture of me. They said that I was gay and asked people to arrest me whenever they saw me.”
The Safety Empire boasts that its goal is to “wage a “crusade” against homosexuality in the name of Islam, and routinely documents assaults on gay men on social media. On Facebook, Secret Empire leader Doya Dundu, a.k.a. Sulley Fuseini, refers to himself as “the Gay Slayer.”
— Omar Kuddus (@OmarKuddus) August 15, 2015
Dundu was arrested in 2015, about a month after Ibrahim was attacked, when he and other gang members poured boiling water on one victim. He was released soon after, though, bragging, “I am finally on bail to enjoy my freedom to continue with the good works that I had already started,”
Since coming to the States, Ibrahim has been shuffled from one detention center to another. While he was the Stewart Immigration Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, his family sent evidence supporting his asylum claim—including social media posts proving Dundu was still at large.
But according to Ibrahim’s lawyers, he never received the materials or any notification they arrived.
In August 2016, a judge denied Ibrahim’s asylum request, “specifically citing the fact that Fuseini had been arrested, and there was no reason to believe he had been released,” according to The Intercept. Ibrahim appealed the decision in January but was denied.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement disputes that claim that Ibrahim never received his mail: “Mr. Ibrahim was not denied access to legal correspondence” Bryan D. Cox, ICE’s southern region communications director, told The Intercept. Cox is prohibited from discussing specifics of the case, but insists that ICE “is fully compliant with the procedures outlined in its detention standards. This allegation is not consistent with the facts.”
On Facebook, Dundu calls Ibrahim’s allegations “lies” and maintains he’s simply making up a story to earn asylum in the U.S.
Ibrahim is now being detained at a facility in Texas, where a legal team is working to get him a new hearing before he is deported. Immigration activists have also launched a Change.org petition urging Homeland Security to revisit his case.
Deportation proceedings have already begun, though, and Ibrahim is terrified he might be sent back to Ghana to face certain death. “I fear I am going to die,” he told the Intercept. “I will be killed.”